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Wendy Reuer, Published February 19 2013

Moorhead wants to make toll bridge free

MOORHEAD – City Council members here say they want the sole toll bridge between Fargo and Moorhead to become public property and free to users by June.

At Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, City Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said action must be as soon as possible to ensure the bridge is returned to the cities of Moorhead and Fargo.

In 1982, the 12th Avenue Bridge was privately funded by four Fargoans who formed the Bridge Co.

Under a contract between the company and two cities, on June 1 Fargo and Moorhead can assume ownership of the bridge and pay off the remainder of the debt, or they can extend the operating agreement another five years, to 2018, after which the cities would take ownership free of debt.

Finance Director Wanda Wagner said Tuesday that on June 1, Bridge Co. will owe a balance of $71,000 on the bridge. However, City Manager Michael Redlinger said Bridge Co. is delinquent in taxes for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Redlinger said Monday it is unclear if Clay County could put a lien against the bridge for those taxes, which would then make the city responsible.

Under the contract, the cities would be responsible for any unpaid “authorized debt,” such as debt incurred for repairs, which could be close to $300,000 Redlinger said.

Councilwoman Nancy Otto said that between 1988 and the early 1990s, an estimated 880,000 cars crossed the 12th Avenue Bridge each year.

“In 2008, which is the last year that I have figures on the crossings, it was still way over 500,000,” Otto said. “It is to a mutual benefit for our communities to get this bridge in our possession.”

Councilman Mark Altenburg agreed, saying a free bridge would “instantly” raise property values in north Moorhead.

“I think it’s absolutely vital we get that bridge and get that toll off there,” Altenburg said. “I think it’s the best thing we can do for north Moorhead, which needs this boost.”

The council expects to vote on the issue at its regular council meeting in March.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530