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10/3/2007
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Traffic Flow Application Helps After Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

Software developer ESRI created and deployed a Web application that allows Minnesota commuters to navigate new routes, despite frequent changes in barriers in the area.

After a Minneapolis bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River in August, software developers managed to create an application to reroute traffic within three days.

When the Interstate 35 bridge collapsed Aug. 1, city managers scrambled for a way to direct traffic, alleviate jams, and keep order while several roads were blocked off for rescuers. Software developer ESRI created and deployed a Web application that allows Minnesota commuters to navigate new routes, despite frequent changes in barriers in the area. The application allowed drivers to see where the city had erected barriers and create a personal route map for their destinations.

"When the bridge collapsed, it was critical that we get information out to everyone that lives in Minneapolis so they knew how to circumnavigate this major artery, which was no longer available for getting in and out of the city," Lynn Willenbring, Minneapolis CIO, said in a statement. "Working closely with ESRI, we were able to very quickly launch the application. By the time the true commuting started on the days following the collapse, citizens were able to quickly understand the best route for them to take, over and above what was provided at the state level by the Minnesota Department of Transportation."

The barriers changed from day to day because of disaster command post needs. Now, they continue to change to accommodate clean-up crews. The changes are so frequent that a commuter could be forced to take one route to work and a completely different route home.

Confused commuters can simply go to the Web site, see the most recent barrier updates and obtain a new route -- the way they would on MapQuest -- either by entering an address or clicking on start and end points.

ESRI software experts used the ArcWeb Services Flex API to design a two-tiered Web application with a public Web page and an administrative Web page that lets city leaders choose and mark barrier locations. ESRI houses the application's database, including street data and barrier data, and sets up the GIS-enabled Web site, so the city does not have to maintain the data, which ESRI says remains current around the clock.

ESRI attributed the rapid turnaround to the Flex API and its ability to handle cross-platform compatibility issues. So, developers did not have to create code for each supported browser type. Developers are also able to use Macromedia XML to create maps with pan and zoom capabilities.

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