A new view as worries mount over fresh influx of vehicles

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 31, 2007 - 11:38 PM

The 10th Avenue Bridge gives solemn viewers a closer look at the I-35W bridge ruins. The surge of traffic from classes starting at the U prompts a word of caution.

A few blocks from the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, Neal Reiter, 31, lamented the traffic congestion that now plagues his neighborhood on the edge of Dinkytown and fretted about more cars to come with the opening of University of Minnesota classes Tuesday.

"It's going to be terrible -- it has been since the bridge accident," Reiter, a university senior and caretaker at a 17-unit apartment house, said Friday.

Sometimes, he said, it takes 15 minutes to drive two blocks. "It's going to be nuts next week," he said.

One month after the bridge went down, killing 13 people, hundreds of people converged on the area to walk the 10th Avenue Bridge, which reopened Friday, offering a breathtaking view of the destruction from a newly created pedestrian walkway.

It was bumper to bumper on the bridge, a possible harbinger of congestion next week when, in addition to the university, the Minneapolis public school year begins, and people return to work after the Labor Day weekend.

"If you are going to any place in the northeast or southeast part of the city on Tuesday morning, add 15 to 30 minutes to your drive time," said Don Sobania, principal professional engineer in the Minneapolis Department of Public Works.

Though the university and the city are offering commuting tips and promoting alternatives to driving, Sobania said the public is going to have to become accustomed to traffic inconveniences.

"The bridge falling down is going to affect a lot of people's lives for a couple of years," Sobania said.

One state official is not anticipating a dramatic change Tuesday. "I don't expect a big mess," said Todd Kramascz, operations supervisor at the regional management transportation center at the state Department of Transportation.

'Bumper to bumper'

It has affected Rick Eidum's life.

A 55-year-old laborer, he drives to work at 8:15 a.m. these days, to get to his 9 a.m. job at Frank's Plumbing at 721 2nd St. SE., even though he lives only 2 miles away from the collapse site.

Eidum doesn't look forward to Tuesday's university opening.

"It's going to be bumper to bumper ... [it'll] probably look like sardines in the street," he said.

Campus officials were offering advice to would-be drivers.

"We recommend that they use alternative modes [of transportation] if possible because of the congestion from the 35W problem," said Mick Ramolae, assistant director of parking and transportation services at the university.

Lt. Chuck Miner of the university police suggested that if students are driving, they should add a half-hour to their commute time.

The city is urging people who go to work consider carpooling, biking, taking the bus or shifting their work day if their employer allows it to avoid rush-hour traffic.

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