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October 2nd, 2007
Bridge Rerouting Application Built to Meet Commuter Needs

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PR — Minneapolis, Minnesota, commuters who need to navigate the constantly changing barriers that surround the Interstate 35W bridge collapse area can create personal routes via a Web application built with ArcWeb Services, which are ESRI’s hosted GIS Web services APIs. Within three days of the disaster, the city had a complete two-tier application designed and deployed to help keep the city functioning.


Following the disastrous Minneapolis bridge collapse on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, the city was ensnared as travelers attempted to reroute to get to their destinations across the Mississippi  River. Traffic barriers set to accommodate rescue operations blocked passage, and major streets were closed. The city’s managers needed an immediate solution. The day following the disaster, they contacted the local ESRI office requesting an online application by which citizens could see where the current city-defined barriers were located and then create a personal route map to get them where they needed to go.

Lynn Willenbring, Minneapolis chief information officer, explains, “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. 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.”

Using the ArcWeb Services Flex API, an ESRI software architect quickly put together a two-tiered Web application that consists of a public-facing Web page and an administrative Web page. The administrative Web page allows the city administrators to define barrier locations. These barriers changed from day to day because of disaster command post needs and continue to change in response to cleanup efforts. For example, a street that is closed in the morning may be reopened in the afternoon and another street closed, so a commuter’s route to work could be very different than the route back home. The city posts this dynamic data immediately on its Web site.

The public-facing Web page is open to commuters, who can see the most recent barrier updates and create personalized routes by either entering an address or clicking start and end points. A route is instantly calculated and drawn, so the user can print out the route and take it on the road. Citizens are navigating routes using the Web site at

ecause ESRI has the infrastructure to house the application’s database, including street data and barrier data, setting up the GIS-enabled Web site and maintaining the data is one less worry for the city. Minneapolis city managers are assured that the application is running and the data is current 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A major reason for the fast turnaround rate is that the Flex API handles all the cross-platform compatibility issues. Developers don’t have to spend time building code for each supported browser type such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox.  Additionally, the fastest way to deploy applications with the API is for developers to use a version of XML, called Macromedia XML (MXML), to complete a variety of tasks and functions. For example, to create a simple map application with pan and zoom capabilities takes approximately five lines of code.

Willenbring notes, “ESRI professional services worked with us around the clock to get this application built and launched, which was fabulous. They clearly had exceptional expertise that our staff found very valuable.”

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