Traffic Reporter Reviews Post-Collapse Commute Rush hour is under way in Minneapolis, Minn., where a deadly bridge collapse on Interstate 35 Wednesday night has cut off a major commuting thoroughfare for the city and neighboring St. Paul. How are commuters handling the obstacle this morning?
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Traffic Reporter Reviews Post-Collapse Commute

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Traffic Reporter Reviews Post-Collapse Commute

Traffic Reporter Reviews Post-Collapse Commute

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The local sheriff has a message for residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sheriff RICK STANEK (Sheriff, Minneapolis, Minnesota): For the public, please stay away from the area. Let the rescue workers do their job. The police have a fairly secure perimeter. It's purposeful, and we need that in order to continue on with the recovery operations.

INSKEEP: Sheriff Rich Stanek is referring to the area around a bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis yesterday. We're going now to Rusty Gatenby. He's a traffic reporter for KSTP, which is the local ABC affiliate. What's traffic like this morning?

Mr. RUSTY GATENBY (Traffic Reporter, KSTP): Well, you know, we were expecting, okay, this is going to be huge, huge impact on the morning rush hour. We thought there'd be gigantic delays as you come into Minneapolis, both from the south and from the north on 35 W, because, obviously, it is shut down as it crosses the Mississippi. So Highway 280 is the official detour, and that has a couple of stop and go lights on it - typically, no where near the volume of traffic. But what they've done is they've basically made it a freeway. Those stop and go lights are lit up green.

Access to the highway, you're not going to be able to get there. They're going to keep you going north and southbound. But surprisingly, it's before you get to 280, we're seeing light levels of traffic this morning. So people have either found another way to get into downtown, or I'm thinking they've just decided, you know what? I will take a day of vacation. I had a couple of days anyway, and it seems a lot of people are avoiding 35 W and the drive into downtown Minneapolis, mostly.

INSKEEP: There must be hardly a person in Minneapolis that hadn't heard of what happened yesterday.

Mr. GATENBY: Oh, exactly, yeah. We had a couple of fender benders on Interstate 94 and some slowdowns there, but that's pretty typical for this time of the rush hour.

INSKEEP: Now when this bridge was standing, how key was it to commuting around downtown? Is it a bridge that everybody would take at some point?

Mr. GATENBY: Well, maybe not everybody, but certainly, I would describe it as one of the busiest bridges in the Metro, if not the busiest. I've heard numbers of 140,000 motorists use that bridge on a daily basis, so yeah. It was one of the biggest bridges for Minnesota.

INSKEEP: Now you mentioned that people have found ways to adjust today - take a day off work, maybe people are coming in late. Who knows?

Mr. GATENBY: Right.

INSKEEP: But this is obviously going to be a long term issue. Can you imagine downtown Minneapolis working well without this bridge for - who knows - years?

Mr. GATENBY: Yeah, that'll be the trick. The governor told us this morning that it would be at least one year dealing without that bridge, and possibly up to three years. So, yeah, it'll be interesting to see what they do down the road or how we adjust or when these delays that we thought would happen today, when they start to happen. So, yeah. This is a - this'll be interesting to see what happens.

INSKEEP: How's the mass transit system in Minneapolis?

Mr. GATENBY: Not bad. We've got light rail, and that was not affected by the collapse, and so that's still going. They've added 25 additional buses this morning. No word on whether that will be - remain in effect for weeks to come. But they added new - more buses. Most people, though, do commute by the interstates.

INSKEEP: Is this the kind of news story that just everybody in a city can relate to?

Mr. GATENBY: I think so, just because of how unexpected it is. You know, a tornado can be, you know, forecast, and a hurricane, you get some warning. But this, it could have happened to anybody, and the amazing stories that are coming out from the scene is just incredible.

INSKEEP: Mr. Gatenby, thanks very much.

Mr. GATENBY: Absolutely.

INSKEEP: Rusty Gatenby is a traffic reporter for KSTP in Minneapolis.

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