At least four dead in Minneapolis bridge collapse

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At least four people died when the entire span of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed during the evening rush hour Wednesday, Aug.1, dumping numerous vehicles — including at least one 18-wheeler — and pedestrians into the waters below.

According to published reports, at least 79 people were injured and more than 20 people are missing. The death toll is expected to rise as recovery workers sift through vehicles buried beneath the rumble. Up to 50 vehicles are trapped in the debris on the bridge; officials said it could take five days to search each vehicle. Immediately following the collapse, television broadcasts showed a mangled 18-wheeler on fire.

The Star Tribune newspaper also reported workers have been repairing the 40-year-old bridge’s surface as part of improvements along that stretch of the interstate. According to the newspaper, Highway 280 was converted into a freeway to help absorb some of the traffic detoured from the I-35W bridge collapse.

Jim Kranig, director of Regional Transportation Center in Roseville, told the newspaper that motorists should consider taking I-694 to I-94 into downtown. I-35W remains open to Stinson Blvd., and then it’s closed to I-94. Coming from the south, there is no access to I-35W from I-94.

There are 22 traffic alert signs on the system advising motorists to avoid the area of the collapse. Kranig said motorists should expect backups on Hwy. 280 due to heavy traffic; it will be difficult for MnDOT to monitor that stretch of road because of limited cameras on Hwy. 280. Transportation Center officials will have traffic spotters at places with no cameras, and State Highway Patrol helicopters will help gather information.

Maptuit Corp. said it reacted swiftly to the bridge collapse by updating its FleetNav Directions program. The new information was made available to dispatchers shortly after the update, ensuring their drivers and trucks would be diverted around the affected area, said Jeff Papows, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

“We are doing everything we can to help our customers get their drivers out of the affected area as quickly and as efficiently as possible by updating and providing them with real-time information,” Papows said. “Since early last night (Wednesday), our team has been hard at work updating our network. We will continue to work with local and state officials and the Department of Transportation to provide our customers with the latest information that affects their drivers.”

ALK Technologies also addressed the bridge collapse with the necessary routing changes within its PC*Miler and ALK|FleetSuite product lines. Users of ALK’s business solutions have been contacted and provided with network update instructions to ALK’s truck-specific map database. For current users, the map data update is available for download on ALK’s online Support Center free of charge.

ALK said an alternative to downloading the revised routing patch is to use the product’s Avoid/Favor setting, which is designed to allow users to safely reroute vehicles around closed highways, bridges, tunnels, roads and streets.

“PC*Miler has featured Avoid/Favor and custom routing capabilities for more than 10 years,” said Ed Siciliano, ALK’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our map data also includes customer-preferred truck routes in the affected area, so we are uniquely qualified to assist in the rerouting project, which is now under way in Minnesota. Routing and mapping aside, our hearts go out to the families involved in this terrible disaster.”