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Published March 27, 2012, 10:05 PM

GF Council Committee Recommends Reconstructing Columbia Road to 6 Lanes

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks City Council Service Safety Committee voted two to one Tuesday night to recommend expanding a portion of Columbia Road to six lanes. The reconstruction project is expected to be done in three phases, but council members disagreed on how money should be spent.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - The Grand Forks City Council Service Safety Committee voted two to one Tuesday night to recommend expanding a portion of Columbia Road to six lanes. The reconstruction project is expected to be done in three phases, but council members disagreed on how money should be spent.

"It's the most complained about road and it's not even close-- so if you want four lanes or six lanes we can fight it out, but there's no way in the world I'm not voting on this project," city council member Terry Bjerke said.

The Columbia Road reconstruction project will be done in three phases. The first will be from Demers Avenue to 11th Avenue South, and there is no cost difference to make the road six lanes instead of keeping it at four.

The second phase will be done in 2014 and will stretch from 11th Avenue South to 14th Avenue South. It will cost about $1.1 million more to make this six lanes instead of four.

"This road is going to be around until 2050 before we rip it up again. So the question is do we think between now and 2050 Columbia Road is going to get busier?" Bjerke asked.

The third phase is expected to begin in 2019 and will stretch to 17th Avenue South. It is estimated to cost about $1.5 million more to make this six lanes.

"Altru is going to basically in the next 20 years rebuild their hospital over there, and their intention is to draw more people from around the region," city council member Curt Kreun said.

Between 2000 and 2010 traffic on Columbia Road actually decreased by about 7,000 cars.

"The principle reason why is of course 42nd became open and diverted traffic over to that new roadway," Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Earl Haugen said.

Council member Tyrone Grandstrand thinks those numbers deserve a closer look.

"We can probably make a better decision that would be less expensive and allow us to do things in other places with our local money. That's why I think it makes sense to get better information, not to delay the project," Grandstrand added.

"I'm all for planning but at some point, if we want to anticipate every variable it's paralysis by analysis, we'll never get anything done," Bjerke added.

"I think we have to look somewhat beyond the model that's there and exercise some judgement," Grand Forks City Engineer Al Grasser said.

Service/Safety Committee members Curt Kreun and Terry Bjerke voted to recommend the six lane proposal. Tyrone Grandstrand voted against the recommendation, but added he isn't against reconstructing the road, he is just against the added lanes.

The numbers that were presented to the committee Tuesday night predicted there would be about a 26 percent increase on that stretch of Columbia Road from 2010 to 2035.

The full city council will vote on the plan at the next meeting.

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