Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Minneapolis bridge collapse: a former commuter's thoughts

Picture by Poppyseed Bandit via Flickr and Creative Commons.

I have yet to be part of the crowds on the Stone Arch Bridge or in the Guthrie lobby, checking out the loss of the 35W bridge from the northeast suburbs into Minneapolis. In fact, by the time I get there, most people will have accepted the bridge loss and use the other bridges for what they were meant for: walking, driving, biking, etc. I alone will be standing and looking at what used to be the bridge I used to cross twice daily, sometimes more.

Like many people are saying and writing, it was never a favorite bridge; you'd have to think of a bridge first to call it a favorite. I was more wont to say the Hennepin Avenue bridge, with its lighted spans, or the Stone Arch bridge, with its history as the railroad trestle that built this town. Never the 35W bridge. It was just a utilitarian bridge, flat, with short concrete barriers on the end. I actually forgot it was a bridge over a river most of the time, I was too busy trying to merge into the exit-only lane for Washington Avenue.

But now, in retrospect, we, and I, miss the bridge. My brother calls it "the bridge to fun" because it led towards downtown and the local music shows that sustained us both through high school and college. I can't contemplate what my commute would be like now without that handy bridge to take me across the river.

I never was really one to be scared of bridges. The other day when I was crossing the South Street bridge in Philadelphia, I felt scared. (Not the Ben Franklin from Jersey into Philly, though. Perhaps the spans flying above my head reassured me.) That bridge has been scheduled for demolition since the late 90s, and still my friends commute over the thing daily.

I've never been scared of natural disasters or terrorist attacks, saying I am far more likely to get in a car accident or die of a heart attack then have something like that happen to me. But after hearing so many "I almost was on the bridge stories," including from my own mother, a little drop of that fear is now in my bloodstream.

I'm anxiously reading news from my local papers. While I was in Miami, I was stuck watching the national coverage, but I was so glad it was being covered and I wasn't missing out on anything. I still highly recommend the Star Tribune's coverage.

Here are a few interesting links I've del.icio.us'd in the past few days:
Cell-phone providers not equipped for disasters
An unlovely bridge, missing and missed
Link to Roadguy blog, talking about how Mapquest and Google have already updated their maps.
And, of course, the video of the bridge collapsing, which I've actually linked from my current newspapers videos, via KARE-11 in the Twin Cities. I can't stop watching it.

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