Twin Cities commuters, braced for a wretched rush hour this morning because of the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge collapse, found the going mostly easy.
The promise of fewer traffic headaches, and a free ride to boot, prompted some commuters this morning to leave their cars behind and take the bus instead.
And those who did drive apparently left early or found alternative routes into the cities.
Random checks this morning at three Metro Transit park and ride lots in Mounds View, Maplewood and Roseville found only a handful of new bus riders in the wake of Wednesday's bridge collapse.
Metro Transit began offering free bus rides for this week only from 12 north suburban park-and-ride lots today as an incentive to commuting.
But it was the fear of heavier traffic that persuaded commuters like Jenny Schurhamer of St. Paul to give the bus a try this morning. Metro Transit began offering free bus rides for this week only from 12 north suburban park-and-ride lots today as an incentive to commuting.
For Schurhamer the free service was just icing on the cake.
"The traffic is going to be super bad, plus people talked about the bridges coming down, and who knows what's going to come down next?" said Schurhamer, who was about to take the 270 express bus to downtown Minneapolis from the Maplewood Mall park and ride lot.
Also at the Maplewood Mall park and ride, were Kris Strom and Mark Schmitz , both of Hugo. They struggled with traffic last week getting to their jobs at Qwest in downtown Minneapolis.
"This morning, we had the news on and they said free rides this week, so we thought we should try it to see if we can get to work faster," Strom said.
"If this works out for us this week, we're certainly open to riding the bus," Schmitz said.
At the County Road H park and ride in Mounds View, Jessica Sepeda, of Shoreview, was on her way to her first day of work at US Bank. She said she probably would have taken the bus even if the bridge hadn't collapsed.
"Now, with the detours, there was no question," she said.
On metro-area highways, traffic flowed mostly smoothly from start of the rush hour through the morning.
"Overall, I'm pretty encouraged by this morning's commute," said Don Zenanko, a state transportation specialist who works in the metro area's Regional Transportation Management Center.
He said it appeared that most commuters left early for work on Monday, and followed the traffic updates that flash on overhead signs on many of the area's major arteries. It made him optimistic about future rush hours.
"I think we have the tools in place so that most of the motoring public can get through this without too much interruption of their daily lives," he said.
Zenanko speculated that the bridge collapse also might be having a smaller impact than expected because many motorists were already taking alternate routes to avoid construction delays on the bridge.
They may have taken their alternate routes today, he said.
The bridge had carried up to 140,000 vehicles a day before it fell in the river during the evening rush hour.