August 3, 2007

The Process Of Living

Now that the first couple of days have passed since the collapse of the I-35W bridge, and even while the recovery of victims remains incomplete, Minneapolis begins its adjustment to the loss of its major traffic artery. The loss will start impacting the community in unexpected ways. For instance, electric service may be disrupted to a good section of the area:

Xcel Energy has two cables in the area around the collapsed bridge and they serve the West Bank areas. Those two cables are operational now, Nystuen said, and the company has a contingency plan in place should they fail.

The utility is also going to reroute cables away from the bridge area so that they will not be a factor in reconstruction. ...

The University of Minnesota has asked students and staff on the campus' West Bank to limit electricity use today and through the weekend as Xcel Energy works to respond to the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge.

That's something that did not occur to me after the collapse. It makes sense for those services to run close to the bridges, even if just for easy demarcation. With all of the work needed to clear the debris, the cables could get cut and create new hazards for the recovery workers.

Traffic will be a major problem for the next couple of years until a replacement bridge can be built. Minneapolis city leaders have begun the process of determining how to increase the bandwidth of transportation options in the affected area. Business leaders will have to find ways to contribute to the solution. Where possible, employers should encourage virtual officing to decrease the traffic through the area. They can also encourage public transportation, but that may not buy much for employees who live farther away.

The new highway-turned-freeway, the 280, has already generated some controversy. Civic leaders do not care much for the solution reached by MnDOT -- closing some intersections and allowing for green lights all the way to the 36. I've driven this quite a few times (my son lives in that area) and it's not the most elegant choice, but MnDOT doesn't have many options. When traffic levels really start returning to the pre-collapse norm, MnDOT may have a big, insoluble problem with the 280.

Unfortunately, after tragedies come the vultures. The FBI wants to warn people about those now:

The FBI is cautioning people about responding to appeals for monetary contributions for a charitable organizations that come via e-mail.

After large scale events such as Sept. 11, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the shootings at Virginia Tech University, several individuals with a criminal intent have used e-mails to ostensively collect money for charitable organizations, the FBI said.

After these kinds of catastrophes, people want to reach out and help, and often they can do that by donating money to organizations that help the victims. Too often, though, those good people become victims themselves of scam artists who exploit those good intentions for the scammers' personal profit. That also harms the original victims, who lose out on the generosity intended to assist them.

The article lists a number of ways in which to avoid being scammed, most of which comes down to this: do NOT trust e-mail solicitations. Check out any organization carefully before sending money. It may be better to trust established organizations like the Red Cross or Catholic Charities rather than unknown groups with little history and less transparency.

Minneapolis and Minnesota will face some difficult issues over the next couple of years. We will have to remain flexible and open-minded as we search for both short- and long-term solutions.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out CathyF's wise counsel on charitable giving in the comments.


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Comments (4)

Posted by cathyf | August 3, 2007 5:11 PM

I would ask one other thing about people considering a charitable donation... In this case, there are going to be some people who need help with medical bills and living expenses, and organizations like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Catholic Charities will help those people to the extent that there is need. But there are relatively few victims (praise God!) and so if large numbers of people donate, there is going to be lots more money than needed for these particular victims.

So, please, consider making your donation as an unrestricted donation to one of these organizations' disaster relief funds, not restricted to helping the particular victims of this particular disaster. Several news stations mentioned that the Red Cross office is right next to the bridge, and that they just happened to be holding a disaster training class for nurses in that building when the bridge collapsed. So there was a cadre of trained nurses, trained in disaster, right there at the scene. As well as their instructor, and the Red Cross paid staff, all trained in disaster relief. And their equipment -- trucks to bring cold water & ice to victims and rescue workers and good samaritans.

All of those things -- buildings, training materials, paid staff support, trucks, supplies, expense money for volunteers, recruiting events -- all these things cost money. Every time there is a big disaster like this, and people donate money, there are some media scandal-creators who try to turn it into some horrific thing that the disaster-relief charities are using the donations to their disaster funds to fund disaster infrastructure and training. In other words, to fund preparedness for the next disaster instead of acting as mere conduits to give money and stuff to the victims of this disaster.

So, don't get sucked into the outrage merchants' fake scandal. Give money to the general disaster relief funds, tell your friends to do the same, and emphasize that you think it's great that any money left over is going to be spent preparing for the next disaster. And consider volunteering now to get training as a disaster volunteer, so that the next time there is a disaster, large or small, you will be prepared to help out.

Posted by pk | August 3, 2007 5:20 PM

if the highway dept or whatever you have out there gets it together and lets contracts with performance clauses and cuts out the various "social equity" stuff you guys could possibly have a new bridge in service by christmas. maybe even by thanksgiving.

out here in california we had a pretty bad earthquake that dumped a couple of large main freeway bridges and they were replaced in a very short time.

also up around sanfrancisco just this spring they had a collapse that was repaired in a very short time.

it just comes down to whether you state (adjectives) put their money where their mouth is.


Posted by daytrader | August 3, 2007 5:27 PM


I have seen you elsewhere and as always you are a vision of wisdom.

Posted by Allison | August 3, 2007 9:28 PM

While it sounds so obvious that this bridge collapse will create traffic headaches, the main reason they haven't been as bad as anticipated is because the construction on 35E already forced people to find alternative routes. They had closed the on and off ramps there at 35E and university/4th street, and the delays and lane closures were causing such backups in the first few days that people chose different paths as the summer went on. I don't think it will be as bad as common wisdom expects, because most daily commuters had already made some adjustments.

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