FARGO — A pedestrian bridge scaling Second Street North and the floodwall in downtown Fargo that has been discussed since the 1980s is looking like a reality.

Fargo's City Commission on Monday night, April 5, accepted a $2.4 million federal urban grant from the state Department of Transportation for the project planned to be built next to City Hall, providing better access to the Red River and adjoining biking and walking trails.

Eventually, the city aims to build a pedestrian bridge over the river and into Moorhead near the Hjemkomst Center, too.

The city share of the 80% federal, 20% local grant will be $600,000, although the city may opt for a more expensive, elaborate bridge that could tie into the construction of a large civic plaza near City Hall and the library.

The city would also be responsible for design and other pre-construction fees that could add $400,000 to the bridge cost.

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Another view of the Fargo Civic Plaza bridge that would connect the city more to the Red River greenway and Moorhead. It would also provide an overlook to the river. Rendering by Bishop Land Design / Special to The Forum
Another view of the Fargo Civic Plaza bridge that would connect the city more to the Red River greenway and Moorhead. It would also provide an overlook to the river. Rendering by Bishop Land Design / Special to The Forum

Last year, the city rejected a $1.1 million grant through the same program that City Engineer Brenda Derig told commissioners was a fairly new federal effort started in 2018.

City Planning Department Director Nicole Crutchfield said the bridge has been discussed for decades with more in-depth planning and designs starting in 2014 to provide a crossing over the floodwalls and better connectivity to the river for residents.

An updated plan in 2019 by Bishop Land Design, which helped design and implement the Sodbuster sculpture landscaping next to the downtown library, called for a more elaborate bridge that would perhaps cost more than $3 million.

 Shiloh and Heather Becher and their children, Colton and Chase, look over the Sodbuster sculpture during the Fargo Civic Plaza dedication ceremonies in downtown Fargo on Friday, Oct. 18. David Samson / The Forum
Shiloh and Heather Becher and their children, Colton and Chase, look over the Sodbuster sculpture during the Fargo Civic Plaza dedication ceremonies in downtown Fargo on Friday, Oct. 18. David Samson / The Forum

However, for now, the city commission voted 4-1 to simply accept the grant and begin discussions on design options with construction planned to start in 2023. The city will call for design and construction proposals within the coming year.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig voted against the project and said it was "a bridge that no one needs."

He said funds should instead be used to fix other city bridges and potholes.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, however, said it would be "great for downtown."

Crutchfield had said in a letter to the commissioners that the bridge should be designed with the ideas of the civic plaza and a possible Performing Arts Center tied into the plan.

Bishop Land Design also offered a more wide-ranging plan that included the plaza and a designed connection to Second Avenue North that would connect Broadway, City Hall and the riverfront.