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East Grand Forks approves historic land purchase for south end connector bridge

The bridge would connect Grand Forks and East Grand Forks at the end of 32nd Avenue South.

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The proposed site of the 32nd Avenue Bridge over the Red River from the Grand Forks side at the end of 32nd Avenue South.
Matt Henson / WDAY-TV
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EAST GRAND FORKS — It was a historic vote by the East Grand Forks City Council Tuesday night, April 19.

It's believed to be the first purchase of land to build a southern bridge connecting Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. With just one "no" vote, the East Grand Forks City Council agreed to buy 64 acres in the area of a flood dike off of Rhineheart Drive. The price tag is more than $700,000.

"It's going to be a bridge at 32nd," said East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander after the vote.

"I was a little caught off guard," said Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski.

While Bochenski agrees a southern bridge is needed, he prefers a site several miles south, by the Grand Forks Country Club.

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Both mayors agree on that location, and both agree two bridges are necessary.

Bochenski's big concern — along with other members of the Grand Forks City Council — about the 32nd Avenue location is that it would go through two school zones.

"You're coming to an established city," Bochenski said. "These houses have been here for a long time. On the other side of the river there's nothing."

The Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has helped the cities navigate the best place to connect.

"Thirty-second has been identified as the favored corridor 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and now its been showing in every single plan as the favorite corridor," Gander said.

The MPO believes there is one reason the project that has been discussed since the 60s is finally moving into the fast lane.

"We're actually seeing more and more impacts. More and more congestion at intersections, to the point where we are needing to evaluate high-dollar intersection improvements," said MPO senior planner Teri Kouba.

"If the bridge ends up not happening, we turn around and sell it for what we have into it, plus a little something for inflation," Gander said. "That land is going to hold value. It's only going to appreciate over time."

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The two city councils plan to have a joint meeting in the coming weeks. The cost of a new bridge is expected to cost around $40 million. The two states would split the cost.

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