Even in the mildest of winters, snow and ice can make a Twin Ports commute interesting - for lack of a better word.  The same qualities that make our area scenic in the summer (think hills, lake, and woods) can bring treacherous driving conditions when a winter storm hits.

When the roads get slippery, it seems like everyone has their favorite routes to get around a little easier.  Those who haven't figured it out yet are left to ask:  "what are the best routes to take to get around"?  One of the most-important questions you need to ask yourself if you have to drive in Duluth or Superior during a storm or blizzard is (a) do I want to go up and down the hill or (b) am I looking to cross town easily.

Worry no more!  Here are some suggestions for the next time Mother Nature drops snow and ice on our Twin Ports streets.  We've rounded up some details - highlighting the primary Snow Emergency Routes in town - adding some commentary along the way.

Cross Town - or - East-West Routes:

  • I-35: This route is probably a no-brainer if you're looking to go crosstown - or east and west.  As an interstate highway, the freeway gets top-priority when it comes to snow removal and ice treatment.  MNDOT crews do an incredible job of keeping this roadway clear and passable.   My only comment on I-35 during a snow storm is that the increased traffic the roadway sees can sometimes bring accidents and back-ups.
  • Superior Street:  As a Tier One city street, Superior Street gets plowed first.  If you happen to be downtown and need to go a few blocks, Superior can be a good option.
  • West 2nd Street & West 4th Street:  These are also east-west, Tier One city streets that can help you accomplish a downtown route during a winter storm.
  • East 9th Street & East 13th Street:  Again, these streets are Tier One - but their locations along the upper hillside can accommodate north-south traffic.
  • Grand Avenue / Commonwealth Avenue / 59th Avenue West:  Starting from I-35 and heading towards Fond Du Lac, this route is a primary Snow Emergency Route that gets top-priority during a snowstorm.  I have taken this route many times during a blizzard and have found it to be (relatively) free from standing snow..
  • London Road:  If you're heading from downtown towards Lakeside (or the North Shore), you'll find London Road to be usually free from accumulated ice and snow.

Up and Down The Hill / North-South Routes:

  • Mesaba Avenue / Central Entrance:  This is one of two primary routes up and down the hill - allowing you to go from downtown all the way to past the Miller Hill area and out of town.
  • Highway 53 / Trinity Road:  Similar to the above route, this roadway also allows you to get up and down the hill - all the way to Miller Hill.  In some ways this route is preferable to Mesaba Avenue due to its curvy nature.  Those curves allow your vehicle a chance to slow down a little on the way down the hill and a chance to re-gain momentum on the way up.
  • 24th Avenue West and 24th Avenue East:  Both of these routes are labeled as Tier One Snow Emergency Routes in the city and allow for up and down routes with (reasonably) less traffic.
  • Other Tier One Routes:  There are a few other routes marked for early snow removal in Duluth that can be good drives to take in the snow;  these regularly-plowed roadways include 40th Avenue West, Highland Street/59th Avenue West, Piedmont Avenue, West Arrowhead Road, Woodland Avenue, Snively Road and Glenwood Street.

Superior's Best Routes:

As a flatter city, Superior isn't as challenging to winter drivers as Duluth.  However,  there are some considerations to take into account.  While Superior usually does a good job of plowing the main arterial routes (think Tower, Belknap and Highway 2) it often leaves the side streets until after the storm is over.

Bridges / Crossing the St. Louis River: 

Both the Blatnik Bridge (Highway 53) and the Bong Bridge (Highway 2) offers good routes to cross between Duluth and Superior.  Of the two main bridges, I would offer that the Bong Bridge is a flatter, less-traveled option;  with it's gentle curves, it also offers a chance to break the headwind that might be crossing the bay.

An alternate to the two main bridges is the Oliver Bridge.  While it might be a little out of the way for some drivers, it's usually always plowed well and its shorter (and less tall) span offers a good crossing path.

 

If you're looking for good information about snow removal and emergency routes, the City of Duluth offers a very detailed section about the subject on their website - including a zoomable map.  The City of Superior also offers details on their website.

Looking for what specific roads to avoid in the Twin Ports when the weather gets bad?  Click here.