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Sorlie Bridge, Demers Ave. to see construction in 2017

Part of DeMers Avenue could be reconstructed in 2017, along with possibly raising the Sorlie Bridge, according to a report being presented to Grand Forks City Council members Tuesday.

North Dakota Department of Transportation is evaluating a regionally funded project to either rehabilitate or replace the Sorlie Bridge in downtown Grand Forks, according to the city staff report.

A choice has not yet been made, but city staff said it’s likely that the rehabilitation option will be selected.

That rehabilitation could mean anything from raising the elevation of the bridge to simply repairing paint, sidewalks and the steel structure, said Mike Yavarow, principal engineer for the city.

Raising the bridge would likely close it for an entire summer, he said, while minimal repairs would probably just slow traffic with some lane closures.

“The state is not making anything public about what they’re going to do yet,” Yavarow said. The Sorlie Bridge project is joint-funded by the NDDOT and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but NDDOT is taking the lead on organizing, he said.

The city would pay about 10 percent of the project, he said.


Rehabilitating the Sorlie Bridge, which DeMers Avenue runs through downtown across the Red River, is deemed a good project to coincide with revamping DeMers from the end of the bridge to Sixth Street, on the Grand Forks side, Yavarow said.

City staff members are unsure when DeMers was originally constructed, but they know the concrete pavement is very old. That pavement was overlaid with asphalt in 1999, city documents show.

Although there doesn’t seem to be obvious problems with DeMers Avenue, the maintenance is necessary to prevent issues, Yavarow said.

Since DeMers is a state road, NDDOT will make decisions on how reconstruction will be done, Yavarow said. Tentatively, the project would cost $4 million to be split about 80 percent federal funds, 10 percent state and 10 percent city, he said.

While the state has not made public decisions on DeMers reconstruction, the city will be able to start looking at utility needs under the road after this summer’s road construction projects are mostly complete, Yavarow said. Actual construction would not begin until 2017.

Those utilities include sewer and stormwater pipes, he said.

Because of how many cars use DeMers Avenue, Yavarow said he assumes the road would remain open during any construction project, with some lane closures as the construction is done a half at a time, he said.

Raising the bridge?

While NDDOT also has not publicly released decisions on the Sorlie Bridge project, one option being considered is raising the elevation of the bridge to reduce needs for closing the bridge during floods, Yavarow said.

But he reiterated raising the bridge is just one of several options being considered.

“A lot of things are being considered,” he said.

At minimum, the bridge needs new paint, updated sidewalks and some fixes to the steel structure, he said.

City staff is only asking the City Council members to confirm the need for construction on DeMers Avenue at the Service/Safety Committee meeting Tuesday.

Call Haley at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102; or send email to

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
(701) 780-1102