GRAND FORKS-Starting in 1948, meetings were held where federal, state and local officials recognized the need for bridges linking Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.
"The consensus ... is that there is an urgent need for two (more) bridges between Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota," a 1955 meeting concluded.
The Kennedy Bridge was the first result. (As a side note, six of the 10 bridges in the Fargo/Moorhead area were built since the construction of the Kennedy Bridge).
But 54 years later, we still don't have that second bridge. And now, the two- to three-year rehab of the Kennedy Bridge will be a wakeup call or even a day of reckoning for the Grand Cities.
Because, as the Kennedy Bridge website explains, "There will be periods ... when no traffic may be allowed on the bridge, and traffic will need to be detoured. It is assumed that Demers Ave (Sorlie Bridge) and Washington Street will be utilized for the detour route."
The 2011 Average Daily Traffic on the Kennedy Bridge was 22,500 vehicles per day.
The local Metropolitan Planning Organization's Bridge Closure Management Study concluded that in the event of a Kennedy Bridge closure, "traffic on the Sorlie Bridge would exceed the road's capacity by more that 40 percent. This scenario would also result in a high level of congestion in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, as the two-lane local streets are not capable of carrying traffic as efficiently as the four-lane U.S. Highway 2."
After years of debate, Merrifield Road is the route agreed upon by both North Dakota and Minnesota as the southern corridor connecting Grand Forks/East Grand Forks and as an alternate route for U.S. Highway 2.
A joint meeting of Polk and Grand Forks county commissions in 2007 resulted in the agreement "to build the Thompson Bridge first, then join back up and build the Merrifield Bridge."
The new Thompson Bridge opened in 2010. Today, in light of the long-anticipated renovation of the Kennedy Bridge, why has there been no follow-up on plans "to join back up and build the Merrifield Bridge"?
Both the Merrifield Bridge and Merrifield Interstate 29 interchange could have been built well in advance of the Kennedy rehab. For Grand Forks and East Grand Forks' sake, there must be better communication between our two cities and states.
After all these years of waiting and debating, let's get real about this roadway issue.
Young is the founder of Telpro Inc. of Grand Forks, a worldwide market leader in drywall lifting and handling products. Telpro's offices and main manufacturing facility are located near Merrifield Road just west of I-29.