(Aug. 2) The collapse of a major interstate bridge in the Twin Cities is not expected to significantly affect the movement of fresh fruits and vegetables in and out of and around the region, wholesalers and brokers said.

The bridge, a section of Interstate 35 West near of downtown Minneapolis and spanning the Mississippi River, collapsed Aug. 1, killing motorists during rush.

Even before the tragedy, trucks were avoiding the bridge and finding suitable alternative routes, said Reed Sibet, sales manager of Wholesale Produce Supply Co. LLC, Minneapolis.

“It was under construction already, and anyone on the transportation side knew it was a bottleneck,” he said. “Trucks would have avoided it anyway. It won’t have any affect on the produce industry.”

Most Twin Cities wholesalers are on the east-west axis of Interstate 94, not the north-south axis of I-35, said Paul Piazza Sr., president of Minnesota Produce Inc., Minneapolis.

The closing of I-35 will, however, divert a large amount of traffic to I-94, which was slow going even before the bridge collapse, Piazza said.

But he was confidant truckers would be able to adapt.

“I don’t see it as too much of a roadblock,” he said. “Something could come up later, but so far we haven’t heard of anything having an impact.”

Phillip Brooks, chief executive officer of New Brighton, Minn.-based H. Brooks & Co., one of the few wholesalers located off of I-35, said the city’s experience dealing with frequent road construction should serve it well in rerouting I-35 traffic.

“We have road construction every year,” he said Aug. 2. “As of today, it sounds like the re-routed traffic is flowing again. I think the city is handling it as well as could be expected.”

Brooks added, however, that there would be some delays, and that it was too soon to tell exactly what the overall effect of the bridge collapse would be.

Tracie Stoltenburg, communications specialist for C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., agreed there would be some delays. But she said they should be manageable.

“We don’t think it will be that much of a problem,” she said. “That area was already congested. Even though it’s a major artery, there are other options.”