Until leaders in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks can agree on a location for a new southside bridge across the Red River, they’ll remain a bit like the geography itself – close, but not yet together.
But as a location has not yet been determined, funding for a bridge, maybe even two bridges, is becoming a top-of-mind issue for elected leaders. Let’s consider it good progress, at least in the interim as the location debate continues.
A rundown of the latest bridge news:
● At the East Grand Forks State of the City address on April 22, Mayor Steve Gander spoke briefly about the need for additional crossings of the Red River between the two cities.
“There is some growing consensus that we need two bridges on the south end,” Gander said. “We need a neighborhood bridge to connect southern residential areas, and the likely location for this would be either on 32nd or Elks Drive. … The second bridge location is likely to be at Merrifield Road, although our friends from Grand Forks might say this is likely the first location.”
● On April 6, East Grand Forks City Council members approved a resolution that asks for federal money for bridges and also gave approval for city staff to submit an official request for dollars.
● An ad hoc committee of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks residents, officials and city staff met in early April to make introductions, go over the basics of the new study, and offer some preliminary opinions. They’re set to meet again this month.
● In March, two northwest Minnesota lawmakers submitted proposals for state funding. At the time, state Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said “we need to have that bridge. 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.”
● And now, new conversations about funding – specifically through the restarted federal earmark process – have emerged. On April 27, the Herald reported that bridges have been included in funding requests from U.S. Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., and Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn.
These are good conversations, and it’s starting to feel like momentum is finally growing to get additional crossings constructed over the Red, further connecting Greater Grand Forks.
As we noted in an editorial in March, the proposals on funding – by people like Johnson and Minnesota state Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston – are a good step to keep the bridge project alive. Others are joining, too. The murmurs are becoming a chorus.
Yes, three bridges exist over the Red, but all were built more than a half-century ago. Greater Grand Forks has grown substantially since, especially to the south.
As funding ideas emerge, there remains, however, that one great question: Location.
At present, the top contenders appear to be, from south to north, Merrifield Road, 32nd Avenue and Elks Drive. To us, the most obvious – and certainly the easiest – decision is a span across Merrifield Road, which would ease truck and agricultural-related traffic while not disrupting quiet neighborhoods in central and southern Grand Forks.