Traffic flowed fairly smoothly on the first morning of the Franklin Avenue bridge closure, but the potential for big snarls still exists.
Motorists who normally use the bridge that spans Interstate 35W just south of downtown Minneapolis are being forced to find alternate routes, with the official detour sending westbound drivers across the freeway on 26th Street and eastbound drivers on 28th Street.
The detour will be in effect for at least eight months as the Department of Transportation demolishes the bridge and builds a new one. MnDOT is replacing the Franklin Avenue bridge as part of a $240 million project to rebuild I-35W between 46th Street and downtown.
Drivers on I-35W also will feel the effects of the bridge project. The northbound MnPass lane is closed from about 26th Street, forcing buses, car poolers and motorcycles to join regular traffic lanes into downtown Minneapolis.
Last week, backups on I-35W to near Lake Street bogged morning rush hours because of the MnPass lane closure. Delays were minimal on Monday.
Bob Fuchs, manager of the Electric Fetus at the corner of Franklin Avenue and 4th Avenue S., said there were "15,000 fewer" cars going by his store after the Franklin bridge closed at 7 a.m. Monday.
That did not stop fans from lining up at noon to get tickets to a third Wilco show added to the rock band's November performances in the Twin Cities.
"It was pretty easy to get to us, just took a two-minute detour," Fuchs said. "But that was at noon. In rush hour it might not be easy to get to us."
Already choked with traffic, the detour could send even more vehicles to the east-west thoroughfares used by thousands to get to major employers such as Wells Fargo and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Motorists following the detour were able to get through fine Monday morning, said MnDOT spokeswoman Denise Workcuff.
City officials also said Monday morning's rush went well. But "evening rush hour will be important to monitor as well," said a spokeswoman for the city, Sarah McKenzie.
Employees, staff and patients had no trouble getting to nearby Abbott Northwestern Hospital, said spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell.
But with construction already diverting motorists on Cedar and Portland avenues as Hennepin County rebuilds bridges over the Midtown Greenway and with the Portland Avenue bridge over I-94 set to close later this month, there is a lot of concern about how patients, staff, employees and ambulances will get to the hospital.
Adding the Franklin closure to the mix will add even more challenges, O'Connell said.
"It will be arduous at times, but it [the new bridge and reconstructed I-35W] will be good for the neighborhood," she said.
For the next eight months and continuing over the next four years while I-35W is rebuilt, the hospital plans to have ongoing communications with MnDOT to ensure that everybody will have access to the hospital.
Drivers have a few other obstacles to dodge. The ramp from southbound I-35W to 35th Street also closed Monday.