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Published February 03, 2014, 08:36 PM

Council wants Kennedy Bridge bike paths, vote recommends bridge be easy to cross on foot or bicycle

After much discussion, the Grand Forks City Council approved Monday the “preferred alternative” of bike paths outside the Kennedy Bridge, with the intent to continue research on that option and others.

By: Charly Haley, Grand Forks Herald

After much discussion, the Grand Forks City Council approved Monday the “preferred alternative” of bike paths outside the Kennedy Bridge, with the intent to continue research on that option and others.

The recommendation to City Council from its Service/Safety Committee was to adopt the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization’s resolution for bike paths on the outside of the bridge.

In the committee’s 2-1 vote last week, council member Terry Bjerke had opposed MPO’s resolution because there is an ongoing study on the bridge over the Red River on Gateway Drive.

Bjerke repeated at Monday’s Council meeting that he didn’t want to make a decision before the study is complete.

Earl Haugen, MPO executive director, told the council that the MPO believed if the city didn’t take a stance on the outside bike lanes, the option would not continue to be studied by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is currently leading the project.

The Kennedy Bridge project — which has not been determined yet as a replacement or rehabilitation — is set to be completed in 2016. Haugen said MnDOT sees risk in that completion date with the outside bike lanes, even though “they also indicate (bike paths) outside the truss as far superior.”

Costs

When council member Doug Christensen asked about cost, Haugen said there’s $25 million set aside for the bridge to be split 50/50 between North Dakota and Minnesota state funds.

Estimated costs are between $13 million and $16 million, largely depending on the type of bike path.

Council member Dana Sande asked why $3 million to $4 million more would be spent for the outside bike paths when MnDOT would surely make safe bike paths inside the bridge truss.

“The Minnesota Department of Transportation is studying the Kennedy Bridge … doesn’t the Minnesota Department of Transportation know what they’re talking about?” Sande said.

He added that there are many other bike paths in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, “Why should we spend $3 million to put one there?”

Haugen said MPO has counted as many as seven people crossing the bridge within two hours, despite signs on the Minnesota side prohibiting bikes.

“Not everyone has a car,” added council member Bret Weber, saying people want multiple places to cross the river.

To ensure the option of an outside bike path will continue to be considered, the council unanimously voted to state that the outside paths are “a preferred alternative,” and that they want it to continue to be studied.

“MPO simply wants to live another day with the paths outside the truss as an option,” Haugen said.

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