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Officials mull ‘signature features’ such as nicer welcome signs for Kennedy, Sorlie bridges

Crystal Schneider1 / 2
Mark Walker2 / 2

As the Kennedy Bridge and Sorlie Bridge are rehabilitated in coming years, there may be a few custom features added to the designs.

Grand Forks city officials are starting to discuss the possibility of “signature features” for the bridges — starting with the Kennedy Bridge, which is the first scheduled for construction by the state, in 2016, said Mark Walker, assistant city engineer.

These features could be lights, signs or other decorative additions, Walker said.

Some examples already in Grand Forks include the lights on the Sorlie Bridge and the large Grand Forks and East Grand Forks signs on the Greenway near the Sorlie Bridge.

Although construction for the Kennedy Bridge won’t start for another two years, now is the time to plan if any design additions will be made, Walker said.

“If the cities want to include anything, we need to identify that now, to keep the project going,” he said.

Construction on both the Kennedy and Sorlie bridges is joint-funded by the North Dakota and Minnesota transportation departments, with an about 10 percent local cost share for each project.

Construction is planned for the Sorlie Bridge in 2017 after the Kennedy is complete.


City staff will be working with City Council member Crystal Schneider, former Council President Hal Gershman, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, East Grand Forks representatives and both transportation departments in brainstorming ideas for the bridges.

Any signature features will likely be locally funded, but that has yet to be determined, Walker said.

Considerations for any added features to either bridge include aesthetics, making sure it doesn’t disrupt traffic and making sure it’s in line with preserving the bridges historically, he said.

There have not been many conversations yet, but one early idea for the Kennedy Bridge is “grander” welcome signs for each state, Walker said. “Right now, it’s kind of just a highway sign,” he said.

Schneider said she doesn’t have any specific ideas she plans to bring to discussions yet, but she likes the idea of adding some features to the bridges. “I think it’s a great idea, especially considering the revitalization of downtown.”

As design ideas develop, there may be an opportunity for public input, Walker said.

He said there may be more concrete ideas in a month or two.

Final decisions on any additions to the bridges’ designs would go through the full City Council and both DOTs, Walker said.

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.
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