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Drivers adapt to life without 35W bridge

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View of Interstate 94 west of footbridge
The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge prompted transporation officials to widen Interstate 94 through Prospect Park and Cedar Riverside in Minneapolis to handle the detour. Traffic now runs on what used to be the shoulders.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

A new study by the University of Minnesota shows that most drivers were able to adapt to detours within two months after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed last August.  

The study also shows that commuting time is about the same as it was before the collapse. When the bridge fell, approximately 140,000 vehicles were using it every day.  

David Levinson, a professor in the university's Department of Civil Engineering and Center for Transportation Studies, looked the traffic patterns.  He said one reason there isn't more congestions is because 50,000 fewer cars are taking trips across the Mississippi River.  

"Another thing was that MnDOT responded very well by widening I-94 with a re-striping, increasing it to four lanes, reconfiguring MN-280 and converting that to a freeway, both of which helped alleviate conditions somewhat," Levinson said.

Levinson said the manner in which drivers adapted to the changes resulting from the collapse show that the transportation system is robust.  

"When we take out one element of the network, people can adapt," he said. "If we were to take out a lot of elements of the network, there might be serious, serious problems, but there is no fracture critical element of the transportation network as a whole."