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Dave Olson, Published December 07 2010

Toll bridge’s future murky

The Moorhead City Council Monday once again put off making a decision on whether to give the Bridge Co. five extra years to run the toll bridge between Moorhead and Fargo.

But a second question surfaced during the discussion: What happens when the two cities ultimately assume ownership?

Moorhead City Attorney Brian Neugebauer told council members there is no agreement spelling out what happens with the bridge.

“There’s nothing set forth,” he said.

Council member Mark Altenburg said the lack of a plan requires that Moorhead and Fargo officials start talking about the future now.

“I would love to know where Fargo is – philosophically – with this bridge,” Altenburg said, adding it is unknown whether Fargo would be agreeable to keeping the bridge open.

The current agreement between the Bridge Co. and the two cities will expire in 2013. At that time, Moorhead and Fargo will have two options:

  • The cities could take ownership of the bridge, but it would mean paying the outstanding debt.

  • The cities could give the Bridge Co. an additional five years to operate the bridge. With that option, the cities would get ownership of the bridge in 2018 with no responsibility to pay any debt that may be outstanding.

    The bridge debt currently stands at about $244,000, City Manager Michael Redlinger said.

    Bridge officials have said they need to secure financing that will allow them to make necessary repairs to the bridge and pay other costs and an extension to the agreement will help them do that.

    Company officials say if the extension is not granted, they may hike tolls in January from the current 75 cents per crossing to possibly a dollar.

    Fargo officials have said they will grant a five-year extension on the agreement.

    Moorhead City Council member Nancy Otto said that before she can vote on a change in the agreement, she wanted to see figures showing how much money the bridge generates each year and where it is going.

    Council member Dan Hunt said he supports the five-year extension because he would like to see the city take ownership of the bridge without assuming debt.

    In other business, the council approved giving $15,000 next year to the Metro Youth Partnership. The money is to go toward scholarships to help Moorhead youth participate in things like park programs.

    Council members were told the Moorhead School Board will decide soon whether to give the Metro Youth Partnership the same amount for the same purpose.

    The city of Moorhead gave the organization $25,950 in 2010.

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