As East Grand Forks and Grand Forks again mull options for another bridge over the Red River, consider what the Herald wrote in a past editorial:
“The whole bridge question needs to be studied immediately. … The building of suitable bridges to meet the needs of the next generation is not a Grand Forks or an East Grand Forks affair. It is not an intercity matter, nor an inter-county matter. It ought to be regarded as interstate business, and the two municipalities immediately affected should contribute to the cost of providing proper facilities for crossing of the river at this point, where national and international highways meet.”
That excerpt is spot on and our opinion hasn’t changed.
When did the Herald publish that editorial? Nearly a century ago, on Aug. 1, 1922.
Back then, there were two bridges over the Red River, both outdated. Now there are three, and a fourth has been coveted by both cities for years. Trouble is, bridges are expensive, and – as happens so often at businesses and at homes – more pressing needs tend to get pushed to the top of the capital purchases list.
Perhaps recent action by lawmakers from northwest Minnesota can add momentum to a project that’s been stuck for years in bureaucratic quicksand.
Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, and Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, have submitted bills in the Minnesota Legislature that seek to secure funds for a fourth bridge over the Red in Polk and Grand Forks counties. Johnson said “it needs to be built, and I want to make sure that we’re prepared here on the Minnesota side so that when we get our act together, the funding will be there for that.”
Anyone longing for a faster commute should temper their enthusiasm. Even if the proposal gains approval in Minnesota, it could be years before dollars materialize.
If nothing else, Johnson believes the action could nudge North Dakota lawmakers and others into pushing, too. Notably, Grand Forks city leaders discussed a bridge last week during meetings at the North Dakota Capitol, although it’s just talk for now.
But if money someday becomes available in Minnesota, it could push Grand Forks – and North Dakota – into more immediate action. It probably would move the bridge project to the top of that long capital purchase list.
“Somebody’s got to go first,” Johnson said, “and I want to show that we’re supporting it, that we’re committed to it, and hopefully that’ll help push the process along faster, further.”
The three bridges that span the Red River here were built prior to 1965, and both communities have grown considerably since. In the early 1960s, Greater Grand Forks had a population of roughly 42,000; today, it’s more than 64,000.
Traffic patterns and vehicle numbers have changed, too. Highway 2, which crosses the Kennedy Bridge, today is a four-lane mini-interstate, and the number of American households with two or more cars has increased from 22% in 1960 to 58% today, according to Department of Transportation data. Anecdotally, farm trucks are bigger and more numerous than ever and many cross on the Sorlie, through the downtown district.
It’s time for a fourth bridge to cross the Red. The recent work by Johnson and Kiel – and the belief that “somebody’s got to go first” – is a good way to keep this project alive.