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Dave Olson, Published September 21 2010

Moorhead considers toll bridge request

Several Moorhead City Council members hinted Monday they want Moorhead and Fargo to assume ownership of a toll bridge between the two cities sooner than the current bridge operators would like.

Council member Diane Wray Williams said she thought it was time the bridge is put “on the public books.”

“There’s no doubt the citizens want the bridge,” said fellow council member Nancy Otto.

The council heard Monday from Kip Moore, president of Bridge Co., who asked the city to extend a grace period for debt repayment from five years to 10 years.

The toll bridge that connects Fargo’s 12th Avenue North with Moorhead’s 15th Avenue North opened in 1988 under an agreement that would put the bridge into public hands by 2013 if the cities are willing to assume whatever bridge debt remains at that time.

A clause in the agreement would allow Bridge Co., with approval of both cities, to operate five additional years, that is, until 2018, at which time the cities would assume ownership of the bridge debt-free. According to information provided by the city, the current bridge debt may be close to $289,000.

Moore said Monday that he hopes the cities will grant the extension to 2018, as well as an additional five-year extension, pushing public takeover to 2023.

He said the company is asking for the extensions because it was hit hard by the cost of cleaning up after six floods in 10 years and it is trying to pay off back taxes.

If the extensions are not granted, Moore said Bridge Co. will increase tolls in January, possibly boosting the current 75-cent toll to a dollar.

Moorhead officials said they want to see more information from Bridge Co., including a clarification on whether a new refinancing of the bridge debt is planned and how that would or would not be tied to the request for extending the debt repayment period.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555