The bottom-line effect

Categories: Minneapolis

Of course emotions and hearts are rightly with the victims of the 35W bridge collapse. And the rational mind--aren't we all armchair engineers now?--is focused on why the bridge came down. But one hard fact of the matter is that I-35 and the Mississippi are key to the hum of the state and the country's economic engine.

So, what's the economic impact of Wednesday's disaster? Art Rolnick, head of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, says it's too early to tell. "Things like this are difficult to put into the big picture," Rolnick says. But there are some things to consider.

For example, Rolnick says there's a price to pay for cutting back on public roads, sewers, schools and the like. "What this says is that the city, state and the country should worry about investing in infrastructure," Rolnick says. "Have we shortchanged investment in infrastructure?"

An immediate cause-and-effect Rolnick points to is the obvious commuter problems that are coming with the bridge being out. "I'm looking out my window at the 3rd Avenue Bridge right now, and it's bumper-to-bumper in the middle of the day, something I've never seen before," Rolnick says. "Are people going to be able to get in and out of downtown to work? Are companies going to go to flex hours? These are things that add up."

Rolnick also warns that trucks and freight on I-35 will still come through the Twin Cities, of course, but will be diverted: "And that's an issue of paying for more time on the road, an added expense." And he points to the traffic and commerce that normally flow up and down the river.

"From a local angle, this is a bill that's going to have to get paid," Rolnick warns, "And a lot of the fees are hidden."


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