With the I-35W bridge opening in sight, Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Weber reported that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is thinking about what else might change around the Twin Cities.
In particular, MnDOT is mulling whether or not to return I-94 between Highway 280 and downtown Minneapolis to its original configuration. That would mean restoring the shoulders on that stretch of highway, often one of the Twin Cities most congested.
Weber says the collapse added 35,000 cars a day. This is what it looked like about sundown last night.
Far be it for me to judge the relative merit of keeping the change. I’m sure the extra lane relieves some of the clog, although it keeps buses stuck in traffic, because they can’t use the shoulder anymore. But clearly someone thinks there’s something right there, or they wouldn’t be weighing the decision in the first place.
The collapse also prompted some much-needed improvements to the ramps at Larpenteur, Hennepin and Highway 280. And as the bridges in St. Cloud, Winona, Hastings and Stillwater demonstrate (and you can add the Maryland Avenue bridge in St. Paul as of this weekend), we all have a new sensitivity toward infrastructure these days.
But what about the changes that aren’t cast in concrete or rolled into roadways?
We were cutting up my first-grader’s birthday cake at home when someone called my wife and told her about the bridge collapse last year. I was working for the Pioneer Press at the time. I grabbed a camera, a digital audio recorder and jumped on my bike heading for the scene. I knew a car would do me no good.
I wound up interviewing people that had fallen into the river, the walking wounded, as they came out of the University of Minnesota hospital. I didn’t even bother with a notebook. I taped everything and posted the audio on the paper’s Web site about 10 p.m. that night. National Public Radio picked up the audio and ran it during newsbreaks the morning of Aug. 2.
It wasn’t until months later that I understood it had been the first day of my radio career. Minnesota Public Radio and I finally made the same realization about Thanksgiving.
I don’t have any inside information about the Pioneer Press, but McClatchy Co., former owner of the Star Tribune, and E.W. Scripps, publisher of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, both reported drops in net income of more than 40 percent last week. If newspapers were bridges, it seems they’d all be down to one lane, at best, these days. I’m glad not to be on that road anymore.
Would I be writing Newscut this morning if the I-35W bridge were still standing? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.
As I occasionally travel through Northeast Minneapolis, watching businesses come and go, homes go up for sale and go off the market, I wonder what else happened that you can’t see from the Mississippi River.
Would the Brasa Rotisserie on East Hennepin be there without the increased traffic in the neighborhood? Would I have lower cholesterol as a result? Did the closure of the east end of Broadway reroute the U.S. Mail and UPS trucks fatefully change traffic on Hennepin or Industrial Boulevard?
Who knows what might have changed that night?
A year later, did the bridge collapse change your life in some way you didn’t realize at the time?