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Published June 12, 2013, 02:22 PM

Sorlie Bridge’s future up for discussion

A public meeting Wednesday about the Sorlie Bridge between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is the “first step” in creating a study on the environmental impact of replacing or renovating the bridge, according to Earl Haugen, executive director of the cities’ Metropolitan Planning Organization.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

A public meeting Wednesday about the Sorlie Bridge between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks is the “first step” in creating a study on the environmental impact of replacing or renovating the bridge, according to Earl Haugen, executive director of the cities’ Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Residents must be informed and aware of any issues related to the Sorlie Bridge on DeMers Avenue between the two cities’ downtowns, he said. They can also offer their opinions at the meeting, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at City Hall in Grand Forks.

The meeting is intended to help determine the scope of the project and develop an environmental impact statement, Haugen said.

Although construction isn’t set to begin until 2018, identifying issues with the bridge will also help determine whether it needs to be renovated or replaced and any extra costs that might arise, he said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has already done some preliminary analysis and has estimated the project will cost $25 million.

“But until they go through the full EIS process, there’s always that risk that something will pop up they haven’t considered in their previous estimates,” he said.

For example, the cost for construction on South Columbia Road rose to roughly $1 million more than planned after an environmental impact study, which revealed unexpected soil types underneath the road, he said.

The departments of transportation in both Minnesota and North Dakota are equal partners in the process and will be sharing the bridge project cost. MnDOT has an agreement with the state’s historical society to preserve the bridge, one of the few statewide that fall under that agreement, he said.

A public meeting will also be held on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at East Grand Forks City Hall.

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