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Thompson mayor envisions bike path into Grand Forks

THOMPSON, N.D. -- Mayor Karyn Hippen convened a "brainstorm" session here Tuesday evening of civic leaders from Thompson and Grand Forks about building another tie to bind the close communities.

THOMPSON, N.D. -- Mayor Karyn Hippen convened a "brainstorm" session here Tuesday evening of civic leaders from Thompson and Grand Forks about building another tie to bind the close communities.

A bike path from the town of 1,000 eight miles or so north and east into Grand Forks would give commuters another option as well as families out for a trek, she says.

Hippen has biked the route over the years, using either interstate 29 or "old" Highway 81 east of the Interstate, which now is Grand Forks County Highway 81. She's also run the route as recently as last weekend.

Hippen has been talking about a bike path for several years but recently formed the T2GF Trail effort to get the idea off, that is, on, the ground.

Not only do 80 percent or more of Thompson residents who hold jobs -- maybe 300 people -- likely commute to Grand Forks, but a bike path could hook into Grand Forks' Greenway bike path and other bike routes around the city to give families a healthy way to pedal around, she says.


"I know we can get something like this done if we have a shared vision," Hippen told the 10 people who attended the ad hoc meeting, including local school, park board and city officials, and health enthusiasts from Grand Forks.

She offered three options for routes: one on the west side of I-29 following a gravel county road north to 32nd Avenue, where the Grand Forks bike path could be accessed; a route up the east side of I-29, first along Highway 81, then Columbia Road extended; or following Highway 81 all the way into Grand Forks.

Earl Haugen, executive director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the Highway 81 route, although it requires crossing I-29, offers the most practical advantages: as a former state highway now in county hands, it still has a wide, 200-foot right-of-way with enough room on either side for a paved bike path.

The other two routes would require buying private land for a bike path alongside the narrow right-of-ways, a nearly impossible task, he said, since there isn't regular eminent domain possibilities along the rural routes.

The eight miles of a paved bike path along Highway 81 to the edge of Grand Forks would carry a total cost of about $4 million, including engineering and design, Haugen said.

Hippen said she knows it will take several years for the idea to become reality, but that other North Dakota cities have built bike paths.

Mayville and Portland, N.D., in Traill County did it for the short distance between the two cities; Larimore, N.D., also used federal dollars through the state Transportation Enhancement program to build such a bike path from the city to the Larimore Dam and golf course three miles away, and Morton County began building the Lewis and Clark trail six years ago, Haugen said.

A first step that could happen within a year or so could be convincing the county to pave the shoulders of Highway 81, Haugen said. That would provide a stopgap bike route until an off-road bike path alongside the ditch could be funded and built.


Adding a bike path to the roadside shoulder of state Highway 15 where it passes over I-29 just east of Thompson could be done safely with painted lines and signs, Haugen said.

But one big caveat: proposed cuts in federal spending might curtail possible sources of funding for such projects.

Haugen and Kim Greendahl, Grand Forks' city specialist for the Greenway along the Red River, advised Hippen to meet with county and state highway officials to propose the idea to begin the process of finding government funding for it.

Hippen scheduled the second meeting of the T2GF Trail group for Oct. 25 in the Thompson Community Center.

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