Roadway swap meeting is Nov. 4 in East Grand Forks

East Grand Forks City Hall
East Grand Forks City Hall, Brandi Jewett/ Grand Forks Herald

East Grand Forks leaders want to hear from the public as they consider swapping roadways with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The state offered to swap the 2.1-mile Business Highway 2 for a city-owned half-mile of DeMers Avenue that runs from Fourth Street Northwest to Highway 2. The proposal, in a nutshell, could mean a fixed-up business highway -- or a considerable chunk of cash -- in exchange for taking on another 1.6 miles' worth of roadway, which would presumably mean higher long-term maintenance costs for the city.

City Council members on Tuesday, Oct. 22, informally agreed to hold a meeting to describe to property owners how the change might affect them and to and solicit opinions from the public. That meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the East Grand Forks City Council Chambers.

“MnDOT stated they are asking the city to take on this mileage because they are currently having a difficult time funding all of their projects and the state has currently set aside the funding to repair or fully reconstruct the roads that are being turned back to local municipalities,” City Administrator David Murphy wrote in a draft of a letter to Business Highway 2 property owners.

If the city agrees to the swap, it could either ask MnDOT to fix the business highway before the roads change hands, or take the money the state would have spent on the fix-up for roadway improvements as city leaders see fit.


Also in play: What would happen to property owners along the business highway if the city opted to take the cash and spend some or all of it on other roads in town? That street will ultimately need a facelift, and that could mean the city charges property owners adjacent to it for some of that work even if it’s performed years and years down the road.

But those considerations might be moot because it’s still uncertain if council members will ultimately be on board with the state’s idea. More than one expressed skepticism of it at an Oct. 8 meeting.

“I don’t think we’ve even, as a group, decided if we got, say, 9 or 10 million dollars that would be equivalent to the cost of replacing that street, would we set it aside for that street replacement in the future, or would we start to use it on other state aid projects throughout our city? Even that hasn’t been decided,” said Mayor Steve Gander. “I think it’s a great idea to have the meeting, but we’ll have to be also very clear to them that some of the details, even on the backside, are being worked out internally by the council.”

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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