I-35W bridge opening varies traffic for student commuters

One week after the new Interstate 35W bridge opened, students have found their commutes both easier and more difficult. University student commuters have noticed that some alternative routes have less traffic, but on the bridge itself, traffic is heavy. Rosalind Clifford, a sophomore studying biology, said that there are still too many âÄúgawkersâÄù crossing the new bridge. âÄúThere is more traffic due to people who just want to see the bridge, so it has made my morning commute a little more difficult,âÄù Clifford said. But Clifford said she expects the novelty to wear off, and is excited for people to get back into their regular routines. However, Clifford, who commutes from St. Francis , about one hour north of Minneapolis, said having the bridge open makes it easier for her when she carpools. Before the bridge opened, CliffordâÄôs dad had a hard time getting close to Coffman Union to pick her up. Now that the bridge is open, she can be picked up in front of Coffman. For journalism sophomore Jessica Tamm, traveling over the new bridge shaves five minutes off of her morning commute. Jessica, who commutes from Fridley, north of Minneapolis, said she needs to get to rowing practice in the morning. âÄúI can get in trouble if IâÄôm late,âÄù she said. The Minnesota Department of Transportation had predicted that traffic would increase on I-35W while traffic flow should improve on alternative routes, such as University Avenue and 4th Street. According to its website, MnDOT also anticipated traffic flow on downtown Minneapolis river crossings to improve, including on the Hennepin, Central and 10th Avenue bridges. Kevin Gutknecht, spokesman for the I-35W bridge project, said he had seen less traffic in areas around the University, including the Seven Corners area and on the 10th Avenue Bridge since the new bridge opened. âÄúI have spent a lot of time in these areas during the project and I can say there has definitely been a difference,âÄù he said. Student commuter, Katie Gannon, a journalism senior, said she also noticed that traffic on the alternative routes had improved. âÄúI sometimes take University Avenue to downtown and noticed that the Central Avenue Bridge is not nearly as backed up as it used to be,âÄù Gannon said. Gannon also said traffic along University Avenue seemed to have improved. However, her commute along 35W to the Crosstown hasnâÄôt changed. Gannon said there is still a lot of traffic during morning and evening rush hours and the traffic tends to bottleneck on the north and south end of the bridge. David Levinson, an associate professor in the UniversityâÄôs Civil Engineering Department, is currently working on a study monitoring traffic flow on and around the new bridge. Naturally, Levinson said the study is not yet complete. âÄúIt is hard to draw any conclusions yet because traffic is still fluctuating,âÄù Levinson said.