Wanted: Input from commuters, residents on I-35W issues

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Transportation officials are taking input on how best to manage traffic around the I-35W Bridge.

City officials have reopened Bridge No. 9, the Dinkytown pedestrian bridge, but reopening the 10th Avenue Bridge is a trickier issue. Officials are looking for input on how to juggle the potential for two or four lanes of traffic, bicycles, pedestrians and a viewing area with higher railings on the bridge. Underwater inspections for any debris impacting the 10th Avenue Bridge will soon follow the divers’ completed recovery efforts.

Last known victim of bridge collapse found
by Sarah McKenzie, Downtown Journal

Recovery workers found the body of Gregory Jolstad around 6:15 p.m. Monday night — the last known victim of the I-35W bridge collapse, according to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Medical Examiner.

Jolstad, 45, was a road construction worker from Mora, Minn. He is the 13th victim confirmed dead by authorities from the Aug. 1 bridge collapse.

On Sunday, divers recovered the body of Scott Sathers, 30, of Blaine.

The other victims of the bridge collapse include Julia Blackhawk, 32, of Savage; Patrick Holmes, 36, of Moundsview; Artemio Trinidad-Mena, 29, of Minneapolis; Sherry Lou Engebretsen, 60, of Shoreview; Paul Eickstadt, 51, of Moundsview; Peter Hausmann, 47, of Rosemount; Sadiya Sahal, 22, and her 22-month-old daughter Hana of St. Paul; Richard Chit, 20, and Vera Peck, 50, of St. Anthony; and Christina Sacorafas-Mosher, 45, of White Bear Lake.

In a prepared statement, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said: “On behalf of all the men and women of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families of this tragic collapse. I would also like to add that the victims, their families and the rescue workers in Winona, Oklahoma and in Utah are also in my thoughts and prayers.”

One of the major proposals to ease congestion around the bridge collapse is a plan for temporary ramps that would connect East Hennepin Avenue and I-35W. The proposal includes construction of a ramp from 35W southbound to Buchanan or Lincoln streets northeast, and construction of a northbound ramp on the east side of freeway off of Johnson Street. The half-diamond interchange is expected to lighten the recent 25 percent increase in traffic on East Hennepin between Highway 280 and I-35W, and would instead increase traffic west of I-35W.

The ramps would be temporary, and state officials would remove the ramps after the I-35W Bridge reopens.

“Generally I like the idea of putting ramps in and getting trips on the freeway as close to Downtown as we can get them,” said City Engineer Don Sobania.

He said public works officials have changed signal timing Downtown to allow more traffic to cycle through each stop light on main arterial roads. He said the Central Avenue bridge has been clogged, but the Hennepin bridge is moving fine. Traffic control agents on 3rd Avenue Downtown have helped immensely, Sobania said, and the city has asked for federal funds to help pay for the agents.

City officials are considering re-striping Central Avenue from East Hennepin to the river by removing street parking.

Commuters and residents are encouraged to submit input on traffic and transportation issues by calling the city’s 311 line or e-mailing the Minnesota Department of Transportation at I35WBridge@dot.state.mn.us.