McFeely: Piepkorn (sort of) right again on north Broadway bridge
Fargo city commission hand-wringing over northside Red River crossing is short-sighted
FARGO — Dave Piepkorn vows to hold firm on his support of a bridge crossing the Red River on north Broadway in Fargo, wanting one that is built high enough to be out of the floodplain so it doesn't have to close in times of high water.
I asked him if he'd be willing to compromise and settle for a lower bridge — at a lower cost — if that guaranteed a new bridge would be built to replace the old one, closed for the last 18 months because it fell into disrepair.
A lower bridge would cost $10.5 million. A higher bridge $21 million.
"Nope. We will figure out how much it will cost and a way to pay for it," the Fargo city commissioner said. "How can we spend $3 billion on a diversion and then put in infrastructure that will flood?"
While I would prefer a little flexibility to make sure a new bridge is built for the fine residents of north Fargo and north Moorhead — a club to which I proudly belong — Piepkorn's continued advocacy for a bridge is correct. At least somebody is standing up for the north side.
He said a year ago Fargo, Clay County, Minn., and the federal government needed to team up on a north Broadway bridge and that they needed to do it right. He said it again this week when it came up at a commission meeting.
He's not wrong, despite the hand-wringing from other commissioners. Including some who've spent years promoting a foot bridge over Second Street North near City Hall that would cost nearly $11 million. (Which I also support, by the way.)
Arlette Preston is one of those commissioners. Last August, in support of the foot bridge, Preson said: "I would hope that we would not be short-sighted on the ultimate design because of cost."
Now Preston doesn't want to rebuild the north Broadway bridge at all, saying it shouldn't be a priority for Fargo. Instead, she's supportive of permanently re-routing traffic through a nearby residential neighborhood.
A footbridge nearly universally panned by Fargo residents as " a bridge to nowhere " (they are wrong) is a priority on which cost shouldn't be a factor, but a crossing for cars over the Red River is a bridge too far?
I wrote this a year ago when Piepkorn and former commissioner Tony Gehrig advocated for an improved north Broadway bridge and an improved 12th Ave. (Fargo)/15th Ave. (Moorhead) bridge in north Fargo: Find the money, spend the money.
Those Fargo city leaders who rightly browbeat, bullied and bludgeoned the region for a $3.2 billion Red River diversion that will be used once every 10-15 years can't now whine about inflation and start skimping on infrastructure. Not when the diversion was sold as a $1 billion project.
We know downtown Fargo is the hippest, most happening place on Earth. We know south Fargo is where the pretty people live.
North Fargo is the Elks Club, Northport Shopping Center and a lot of blue collars.
That doesn't mean its bridge should be a lesser priority than one for the chic pedestrians downtown.