Local businesses and officials discuss economic, transportation impacts of bridge collapse


Deadline for disaster relief contact is end of day, Wednesday, Aug. 8

Representatives of local businesses gathered at Augsburg College on Aug. 7 with local, state and federal officials the hear and speak about the effects of the 35W bridge collapse and what is being done to mitigate the impact.

“It’s going to be along haul that we’re going to have to work through,” said County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin (District 5). “It will take the help of the business people to make it work,” he said, calling for their “work, support and patience.”

Bob Lind, manager of business finance for the city’s Community Planning and Economic Development department (CPED), urged local businesses who may experience financial or other impacts from the disaster to email him at Bob.Lind@ci.minneapolis.mn.us by the end of the day on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The list of businesses will help inform the application for disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the deadline is not for the application itself, Lind explained.

“That will help trigger the emergency disaster declaration,” said Ed Daum, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Should such reilief come, it would likely be in the form of loans, said Daum’s colleague Mel Aanerud. Daum outlined briefly some of the SBA’s programs — information is available at www.sba.gov/mn.

Speaking after the meeting, Aanerud gave examples of the kind of impact the disaster is having, or might have, on businesses, from local road closures around the site to detours that change trucking routes and times.

A woman from Children’s World Learning Center, 807 SE Second St., told Aanured that customers have been unable to get to her business, he said, while another business owner was concerned that weight limits on local detour routes would not allow for delivery of the heavy equipment he deals in.

Jerry Showalter, whose family runs the BP gas station on University Avenue at the north end of the still-closed 10th STreet bridge, said the closure “has to have some impact” on business.

Other businesses may not know for a while how the disaster and resulting changes will impact them, Aanerud said.

Traffic and transit issues

Attendees had numerous questions and recommendations for city and state transportation officials, many of them specific details related to access and traffic flow on both city streets and highways. Officials at the city, county and state levels are looking at the ongoing management of traffic in the city and surrounding metro area, they reported.

Don Sobania, principal professional engineer with the City of Minneapolis, said that 50-60 percent of the 150,000 cars that traveled daily across the 35W bridge were “heading into or out of the central business district.” The other 40 percent is thru traffic that he suggested use alternate freeways — such as the primary detour along Highway 280 — rather than clog city streets.

Those city streets are burdened with local traffic — some areas more than others, Sobania reported. The worst “hot spot” was east Franklin Avenue and East River Road, he said. Others in attendance reported backups in what Sobania called the “East Hennepin Triangle” between the river and Central Avenue.

Other areas of concern included local access to Highway 280 from Como, East Hennepin and Larpenteur avenues. MNDoT officials pledged to keep those accesses open, with only brief late-night and weekend closures for modification work.

The city has extended rush hour traffic light timing and cycling to help move the traffic along. At some intersections, traffic patrols are assisting with direction, and some signs and signals have been changed.

City officials urged residents and businesses owners to call 311 with concerns or ideas about how traffic could flow better.

Representatives from MNDoT said that their agency is looking at as many as 30 areas where temporary changes could be made to facilitate freeway traffic, such as turning the shoulder into another lane along I94 between 35W and Highway 280, among other examples.

Officials recommended the city’s website as the best place for updated traffic information and links to other agencies such as MNDoT.

Chris Roy, north area manager for MNDoT, said that his agency ahs expedited some projects in response to the disaster. Although projects will go through the required environmental and contracting processes, he gave the example of one disaster-wake project that was designed in three days. “That might have taken a year before,” he said, evoking a bit of laughter from the crowd.

Susan Forberg of Metro Transit also outlined the various bus, rideshare and employer-incentive options available, in an attempt to get more people to use mass transit in the months after the disaster and beyond. That information is available at www.metrotransit.org.