MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It has only been four days since the Minnesota Department of Transportation reconfigured the lanes inside Minneapolis’ Lowry Hill Tunnel.

Vehicles weighing more than 9,000 pounds or semi-trailer trucks, over-the-road buses and delivery trucks have been asked to stay out of the tunnel for safety reasons.

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Beefed-up patrols are in the area to catch these violators.

“We’ve had a new configuration since Sunday,” said MnDOT’s Dave Aeikens.

Construction has reduced the tunnel to two lanes in each direction and all traffic is on one side of the tube.

A truck illegally driving into the Lowry Hill Tunnel (credit: CBS)

“We’ve got two, 10-ten-foot-wide lanes going in each direction, and concrete barriers in the middle. There’s no shoulder, it’s very limited clearance,” Aeikens said. “So something big like a semi just, there just isn’t room for it in there. We’ve had a few kind of sneak through there since we started this.”

Traffic management cameras are exposing truck drivers who are in violation of the vehicle ban. These images forced state troopers to increase patrols of the area.

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“So we’ve had three different teams of people out here working traffic enforcement, and in the last ten days they’ve issued an additional 67 citations for people passing through the tunnel illegally,” said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

She says there is no room for error once inside, and there have already been a few close calls.

A truck was involved in an accident while illegally driving in the Lowry Hill Tunnel (credit: CBS)

“We had a truck driver enter the tunnel, hit several cones, actually damaged some of the lights in the tunnel. And then we had two other truck drivers enter the tunnel,” Nielson said. “So we sent a trooper out, they got citations for this.”

Just before 9 p.m. Thursday, a truck was involved in an accident in the tunnel, snarling traffic up I-94 for miles.

MnDOT wants truckers to avoid driving downtown or use the detours. Both will save you the $300 fine for entering the tunnel illegally.

MnDOT has been calling trucking associations and passing out flyers at rest stops to make sure truck drivers know about the ban.

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Click here to learn more about the detours on MnDOT’s website.

Reg Chapman