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Minnesota's unusual situation may provide lessons that can be used elsewhere: Three University of Minnesota researchers quickly got a $17,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to begin studying how commuters adapted to the traffic changes caused by the collapse.
The group will use traffic counts and surveys handed out at parking ramps to see how patterns change over time, with the hopes of developing a program that will help cities figure out what to do when there's a major traffic blockage.
Some commuters are more entrepreneurial than others, said David Levinson, an associate professor of civil engineering who's involved in the study. Some, like shoppers at a grocery store, will keep trying various routes or checkout lanes until they find the shortest one. Others will pick one and stick with it.
Researchers said they wanted to study the bridge collapse because it was an unforeseen major alteration to traffic.
"This is an interesting case because it's so stark and so significant," Levinson said. "People will remember the route they used to take. ... They might be able to explain the process they undertook in this particular case."
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