Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are inching toward another round of south-side bridge studies.
After agreeing to put up $15,000 to study the hydraulic impact of a potential bridge at 32nd Avenue, East Grand Forks City Council members on Tuesday informally agreed to do the same for one at Elks Drive, which is a little less than a mile farther north along the Red River. They’re set to vote on it formally at a council meeting next week.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization, a hub for regional planning and the funds with which to do it, asked both cities earlier this fall for money to study how a new bridge at three proposed locations -- Elks, 32nd and 47th Avenue -- would impact the river’s flow. Organization staff said each location study would cost about $30,000, and asked the two cities to split the cost of the ones at Elks and 32nd. Grand Forks would pay for all of the one at 47th, which is beyond East Grand Forks’ levy system.
But as recently as last month, the two cities had pushed competing visions for the studies’ funding.
East Grand Forks leaders agreed in September to pay for their half of the 32nd study, contingent on Grand Forks doing the same, but did not apportion money for the other two locations. Grand Forks City Council members in October directed city engineers to prepare a “scope of work” for a study of all three locations and solicit firms’ qualifications to conduct it, but they haven’t agreed to spend any money to look at any of the three locations.
Both have been working to build another bridge since the 1960s. A planning organization study concluded that a 32nd Avenue bridge presents the best cost-to-benefit ratio, and leaders in both cities have regularly included one there in their long-range planning. But some Grand Forks City Council members have pushed back on that plan recently, and Mayor Mike Brown indicated this summer that he’d veto any future spending on a bridge at 32nd.
“It appears they’ve made an exception to that in order to study the hydraulics,” East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander said Tuesday. “Maybe we could take it as an olive branch from them and say, ‘you know what, let’s go ahead and continue the exploration on Elks.’”
Assuming East Grand Forks City Council members next week formally OK the additional $15,000 for the Elks study, the city would be on the hook for a total of $30,000: $15,000 for 32nd and another $15,000 for Elks. Grand Forks is set to cover the rest: $30,000 total for its half of 32nd and Elks, plus $30,000 for the entirety of the study encompassing the 47th Avenue bridge.