Minneapolis first responders prepare for 'major' construction detours

The new road detours into downtown Minneapolis will be testing the patience of many metro drivers, but will also present challenges to first responders.

Starting Friday at 10 p.m., MnDOT will close exits to downtown Minneapolis from northbound 35W. Those exits will stay closed for four months.

“We will get to your emergency regardless of construction,” said Hennepin EMS Operations Battalion Chief Mike Trullinger.

Trullinger says paramedics work closely with MnDOT on a daily basis, navigating around construction projects of all shapes and sizes. But this project, which will cut off a main artery into downtown, is significant. 

“This is pretty major,” said Trullinger. “Our other major ones in recent history were the Lowry Tunnel project and the 169 project.”

As with those projects, preparations for how to get to and from Hennepin County Medical Center include adjusting coverage and response routes, along with updating road and street closures and detours into each ambulance's computer software system. Looking back at data from previous projects, wait time increased by less than a minute for most emergencies. 

“Certainly, there will be some that will be more, many that are less,” said Trullinger. “By doing this process, we’ve been able to take away that angst.”

While drivers moving out of the way of emergency vehicles is always important, times like these with everyone sharing detours and adding time, getting out of the way is vital. 

“Be patient,” said Trullinger. “Our medics try to be patient too. We know that sometimes there’s just no place to go until the vehicle in front of you moves. But once that’s clear, please give us the right of way because we are responding to an emergency when we have lights and sirens on. And people’s lives are at stake and it could be someone they know.”

Because of their multiple stations, Minneapolis firefighters and EMS are often first on scene in a medical emergency. In addition to staying up to date on construction changes, they will also be spending time downtown navigating around the recommended detours to get familiar with the best possible routes.