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Published November 03, 2011, 08:26 PM

Needed Local Bridge Replacement Could Take Years

EAST GRAND FORKS, MN (WDAZ-TV) - The two main bridges that connect Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are in need of a major overhaul, possibly even replacement.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

EAST GRAND FORKS, MN (WDAZ-TV) - The two main bridges that connect Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are in need of a major overhaul, possibly even replacement.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials met with East Grand Forks city leaders to talk about that timeline.

A lot of people just call the Sorlie Bridge the downtown or Demers Bridge. It's getting old, and is actually up for replacement in just a few years. But they may hold off on doing that if they can.

It was built in 1929 and, 82 years later, it carries about 15,000 cars a day.

The bridge was part of a conversation between MNDOT officials and East Grand Forks city leaders.

The replacement is scheduled in six years.

"That is a concern, that there's an old bridge, it's rusting underneath," DOT planning engineer Joe McKinnon said.

McKinnon says there is a push from the Federal Highway Administration to preserve older historic bridges like the Sorlie. A study will soon be done to see what work would have to be completed to keep the structure safe.

"Can some steel be replaced? Can gusset plates be fixed? New decking, whatever, so there can still be an historic bridge in place there that will still have a lifespan to it," McKinnon said.

If the bridge cannot be rehabilitated, it could take up to two years to replace it.

What might that do for business? City Council President Craig Buckalew says a good example of that is what happens when the Sorlie is closed during spring flooding.

"I think many of the businesses downtown are indeed destination stops and people will find a way to get there no matter what," Buckalew said.

Buckalew says having that bridge closed long-term could have a different results.

Craig: "It's only when you push them out for an extended period of time that they start to change those habits. They start to change those buying patterns. And then of course it takes marketing dollars to get that customer back to where he was doing business before," Buckalew said.

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