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OUR OPINION: GF’s, EGF’s bridges need distinctive, signature mark

City planners on each side of the Red River have a great opportunity before them when rehabilitation begins on two bridges that connect Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

The Kennedy Bridge on U.S. Highway 2 is scheduled for an upgrade in 2016. The Sorlie Bridge on DeMers Avenue likely will be renovated in 2017. Both are iconic — the Sorlie probably more so than the Kennedy — and both see heavy daily use.

And, unfortunately, both evidently need some work, prompting the renovations. We’re sure it will be an inconvenience, but it’s necessary.

The opportunity comes as planners consider outfitting the bridges with new “signature features,” such as lights, signs or other decorative additions.

Ever cross the Missouri River from Sioux City, Iowa, to Sioux City, Neb.? If so, it’s possible that trip was made over the Veterans Bridge, a long span with a grand arch that is colored at night by a series of deep-blue, almost purple, floodlights. Contrasted against a black night sky — or better yet, the last orange streaks of twilight — the bridge is stunning and leaves a great impression on passersby.

The lighting of the Veterans Bridge is by no means unique, but it impresses nonetheless.

The Sorlie Bridge is illuminated at night, but we envision the renovated bridge bathed in dramatic colors that better highlight it against the city skyline, much like the Veterans Bridge in Iowa.

Perhaps some shade of red, in honor of the river the bridges cross.

And, signage along both bridges should call to motorists and remind them that crossing the Red isn’t just a short trip between sister cities, but a notable leap between two diverse, proud states and equally proud cities. We don’t get that feeling today.

Such proposals will come with a cost. The Herald recently reported the construction project on the bridges will be mostly funded by North Dakota and Minnesota transportation departments, but with local entities putting up roughly 10 percent. Additional costs for signature features on the bridges would be covered by the cities.

Brainstorming already has begun on both sides of the river, and there may be an opportunity for public input. We suggest readers think about it, and submit ideas to either City Council. Or, send them to the Herald in the form of a letter to the editor.

Maybe it’s not floodlights or new signage. Perhaps other ideas will surface.

Either way, adding a signature feature or better signage to these bridges will provide even more flair to vibrant downtown areas on both sides of the river. This is a unique opportunity to create a recognizable and memorable touch to what already are iconic and symbolic bridges.