FARGO — Fargo and Clay County officials will be gathering at noon on Monday, Nov. 29, to possibly decide on how to proceed with the closed North Broadway bridge across the Red River.

The meeting was put together after Fargo city commissioners had differing views at their last meeting on whether to repair the bridge at its current height of 23 feet or raise it to 37 feet and lengthen it to keep it out of flood danger in coming years.

One of the main question of course has to do with money.

A replacement bridge is estimated at about $4.5 million while the higher bridge could be as much as $12 million.

Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and John Strand seemed to favor raising the 32-year-old bridge out of flood water danger, while Commissioners Tony Gehrig and Mayor Tim Mahoney favored keeping the bridge at the lower level.

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Commissioner Arlette Preston didn't offer a position.

Piepkorn said the bridge needs to be fixed "as quickly as possible" as traffic in that area currently has to go through a neighborhood.

He also wondered if a new lower bridge wasn't just a "temporary fix," that would result down the road in a need to be raised.

"We need to do it right, one time," Piepkorn said.

He suggested maybe the Fargo-Moorhead area diversion authority should be involved as the higher elevation would keep the bridge out of flood danger when the diversion channel is completed.

Strand added residents aren't allowed to build in the flood plain so why should the city be allowed to construct a bridge that is out of danger.

Gehrig responded that the bridge probably only floods for a week every few years and suggested saving the millions of dollars.

He suggested spending more funds on the 12th Avenue bridge that carries much more traffic between Fargo and Moorhead and also is covered with water and closed during floods.

Mahoney suggested having the "brown bag" meeting to sit down and discuss which way the city and also Clay County may want to go.

City Traffic Engineer Jeremy Gorden said the hurry for a decision is that they want to submit federal aid requests to the metro transportation agency by early December and the North Dakota Department of Transportation by the end of the year.

The bridge is part of the request for the coming few years that is awarded by the state to cities and counties for major projects.

Gorden said North Dakota is expecting an extra $125 million per year in federal aid in each of the next five years through President Biden's infrastructure bill.

He added the state's bridge fund will likely climb from about $28 million to $30 million each year to $45 million.

Gorden said they don't know how much more Fargo will receive but recommended the $4.5 million for the North Broadway bridge should be included in the request.

The city commissioners voted to include it in the request, but held out on any decision on the scope of the bridge.

City Engineer Brenda Derrig said they have been working with consultants on the bridge to see the best way to proceed and that she didn't have definite cost estimates for the two bridge options.

Piepkorn said he would like to see the numbers.

As for raising the 12th Avenue bridge, Gorden said the bridge is owned 50/50 with the City of Moorhead. He said Moorhead would have to pay for half the cost, which he estimates at as much as $15 million to $16 million to raise it from 23 feet to 37 feet.

In the past, the city has been receiving about $12.5 million in federal aid per year that is combined with local sales tax funding to improve major roads and bridges, according to Gorden.

Other Fargo requests for federal aid projects that are divided into several categories for specific types of projects and have been approved by commissioners for the coming three years are:

2022: Reconstruction of 32nd Avenue South from 32nd Street by Interstate 29 to 22nd Street, the completion of the 64th Avenue South overpass over the interstate, and transit bus purchases.

2023: Completion of the west end of 52nd Avenue to a four lane with a bridge over the Sheyenne River, a dramatic Second Street pedestrian and bicycle bridge by City Hall over the flood wall, a multiuse path by the city's wastewater plant or Bison Village in north Fargo and more bus purchases.

2024: Reconstruction of Main Avenue from University Drive to 25th Street and completion of the reconstruction of 32nd Avenue from 22nd Street to University Drive.

Gorden said design work on 32nd Avenue is moving along and that consultants have just been hired to start planning for design options on the Second Street pedestrian bridge and Main Avenue.