MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like a steady stream, traffic flows in and out of the Lowry Hill Tunnel near downtown Minneapolis.

But around 1:35 a.m. Sunday, when few cars are typically on Interstate 94, a traffic jam reminiscent of rush hour brought drivers to a complete stop in the westbound lanes. Near the front of the sudden stoppage, a dangerous display that police call “hot rodding” took over the road.

Drivers took turns doing donuts and burnouts, searing their skid marks into the pavement as other people jumped out of their cars to record the stunts on their phones. It went on for about 20 minutes, with the line of brake lights continuing to extend outside of the tunnel.

(credit: MnDOT)

Hot rodding is a sight rarely seen on highways, but it is one that took over city streets several times last year.

Drivers burned rubber in the North Loop area of downtown Minneapolis on several occasions. One time it happened within view of the police department’s First Precinct building, another time further down Washington Street near the Hewing Hotel. Both incidents happened well past midnight with crowds surrounding the intersections, just feet from the spinning cars. Police reported the crowd at times threw rocks and bottles at officers who were trying to break things up.

Several law enforcement agencies across Hennepin County teamed up in October to stop the gatherings and say hot rodding died down in the winter months.

But as the temperature rises this spring, there’s concern the lawless and reckless activity could accelerate again.

Back at the Lowry Hill Tunnel incident, Minnesota State Patrol troopers eventually squeezed their way through the stopped cars to reach the front and stop the hot rodding. Investigators said one of the suspected drivers sped off instead of stopping for troopers. The trooper decided to stop the pursuit for safety reasons. The case remains under investigation.