Big infrastructure projects still under consideration in East Grand Forks; what's the status?
City leaders are mulling a roundabout or reconstruction on 10th Street along with a railroad quiet zone and intercity bridge.
EAST GRAND FORKS – The city of East Grand Forks has several infrastructure projects under consideration, including an intercity bridge project and a pending decision on a roundabout or reconstruction on 10th Street.
And nearing construction is another project: A railroad quiet zone near Sacred Heart School.
East Grand Forks City Administrator David Murphy recently visited with the Herald about the three infrastructure projects and the current status of each.
Construction on the railroad quiet zone near Sacred Heart School is set to start in the fall and is anticipated to finish next year. The quiet zone means trains won’t need to routinely sound their horns at the three crossings by the school. Safety measures — such as approved cross arms and physical barriers — will be put in place to meet the quiet zone requirements.
Though employees at Sacred Heart School shared their concerns about the loss of parking due to the quiet zone and asked if a pedestrian crossing could be added, Murphy said that won’t be possible due to safety issues.
What to do with Hill Street Northwest was also a question, with the crossing at Third Street Northwest closing for the quiet zone. The two options were to turn the road into a one-way street while the other was to eliminate parking on the roadway and turn it into a two-way street. Murphy said the street will be turned into a one-way.
A decision on whether to pursue a roundabout at the intersection of Bygland Road and Rhinehart Drive or rebuild a segment of 10th Street Northeast has been a discussion at City Council for more than a year. The talks come as $860,000 in federal “subtarget” funding is currently available for the city to put toward one of the two projects.
Last year, the council narrowly voted for the roundabout in a 4-3 vote . A few weeks later, Mayor Steve Gander vetoed the council’s decision and the council chose to then pursue the 10th Street project.
However, Murphy said the city has so far held off on moving forward with the work on 10th Street as the project wasn’t part of the city’s long-range transportation plan with the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Amending the transportation plan to include it would be a long process.
Both projects still need a decision from council members, who must choose where they want the funds to go.
“Neither one is set in stone,” Murphy said.
The latest the council can make a decision is early next year.
Many East Grand Forks residents are opposed to the proposed roundabout at Bygland Road and Rhinehart Drive, voicing their concerns during a neighborhood meeting Wednesday, June 8 .
Among the many concerns include the impacts the roundabout can have on the safety of drivers and pedestrians, businesses nearby including Orton’s convenience store, semi-trucks traveling down the road and emergency personnel needing to quickly get somewhere. Residents also questioned how the roundabout would be plowed during the winter months and the effects it will have on their properties.
“Who wants to look at a roundabout out their living room window?” one resident asked during the meeting.
The city of East Grand Forks is seeking to hire a consultant to help with the process of moving forward with the plans for a south-end intercity bridge, connecting to Grand Forks.
The City Council authorized Murphy to distribute the finalized request for proposals to five consulting firms during the June 7 City Council meeting. The firms will have until June 30 to return their proposals and a selection committee will then choose the consultant.
The idea of an intercity bridge on the south side has been discussed for decades, dating as far back as the 1960s and '70s. Murphy said former council member Henry Tweten, who died early last year, was one of the last East Grand Forks city leaders who was around when initial conversations about the bridge started.
After talking with North Dakota and Minnesota departments of transportation, Murphy said there isn’t a defined process for building a new bridge.
“... Apparently putting a brand new bridge in a completely new location is extremely rare,” Murphy said.
The consultant will help ensure no steps are missed and will be responsible in reviewing previously completed studies; coordinating with Minnesota and North Dakota’s departments of transportation and any other local, state, county and federal agencies to complete any preliminary work; and providing regular updates to the city and also to Grand Forks on the status of work and/or pending work.
While East Grand Forks has purchased 64 acres of land across from Grand Forks’ 32nd Avenue South , the need for more discussion on the bridge has been mentioned by Grand Forks City Council members and East Grand Forks council member Dale Helms.
Murphy said a joint meeting between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks city councils is scheduled for Monday, July 11, following the Grand Forks council meeting.