Thursday, August 02, 2007

What Happens When You Damage Infrastructure?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a couple of entries addressing what happens to transportation in an urban area when a segment of the transportation infrastructure is disabled. I was inspired to write about it because I had recently spent time in Pittsburgh, PA. At the time, a major section of I-376 (the major highway connecting downtown Pittsburgh to all points east) was completely shut down. Completely shut down. Not a single lane was available in the eastbound direction. I was astonished to see how paralyzed travel had become.

Well, I guess I have the opportunity to reflect on the situation again, because as you probably have heard the I-35W span over the Mississippi just collapsed into the river yesterday. It happened during rush hour, but since there was active construction on the bridge there were fewer cars than normal. At any rate, it's quite a disaster.

In case you're not from Minnesota and want to understand a bit better how catastrophic this is for our metropolitan transportation, allow me to elaborate. I-35 is the major north-south interstate for the whole damn state. I-35W is the portion of I-35 that passes through Minneapolis (I-35E passes through St. Paul). It is the major north-south connector for the region. While there are other bridges nearby, none of them will be able to handle the load (100k cars per day) that I-35W did. Traffic is going to be a nightmare, especially for anyone wanting to make a crosstown journey.

Government is working very hard here to figure out transportation remedies. One of the most interesting is that they're upgrading a quasi-highway into a full-fledged highway, at least temporarily. This means taking a 55mph road with a few intersections and completely closing off those intersections. It's fascinating to see how existing roads can be adapted for new uses. If you doubt me, you should have seen what MLK Blvd in Cleveland was like when they closed it to all vehicular traffic. The major commute route was instead flooded with walkers and bikers. Quite a site (er, sight) !


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home