Wednesday’s collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge hit close to home for me. Not only do I have friends and family who live in Minnesota (my cousin’s husband is a doctor at a hospital where many of the bridge victims were treated), but I have crossed that bridge many times myself.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 35W bridge, it is a major Twin Cities artery. It connects downtown Minneapolis with the University of Minnesota and the northern suburbs. The bridge is packed every day. Typically, you have about 140,000 vehicles (bumper to bumper) trying to speed across the bridge (using all 8 lanes) on a daily basis. The bridge was in the midst of being repaired and two lanes in each direction were closed when it buckled and collapsed. You have to deduce that the lane closures at least limited the number of vehicles that were on the bridge when it came tumbling down and possibly spared lives. Still, I’m sure that is of little consolation to the families whose loved ones died at the scene and to the others who are still waiting for officials to give word on the missing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them.
It took a few days, but I finally heard from all of my friends living in Minneapolis. Many of my former television news colleagues from Wisconsin have gone on to work at stations in the Twin Cities. Two of them work at the CBS affiliate there. The station is located less than a mile from the bridge. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that both of them were working when the bridge collapsed instead of taking their daily runs on the trail that sits under it. I still have a hard time watching the devastation on television; I can’t imagine how residents there must feel seeing the twisted metal and steel submerged in the murky Mississippi.
For those of you who had plans to drive through the city this summer (or winter) getting around will be a challenge to say the least. One bit of good news: the president pledged to help expedite the bridge’s reconstruction. And yesterday state transportation officials set an ambitious timetable for rebuilding the bridge, saying they hoped to award a contract in September and have the project completed by the end of next year. A new bridge in less than 15 months… Twin Cities’ commuters can only hope.