Too expensive to keep the old bridge
KEVIN TENGESDAL Bismarck Sep 3, 2007
In wondering about the fate of the old Liberty Memorial Bridge, I sent this letter to the North Dakota Department of Transportation:
“I was wondering. After the new bridge is complete, why destroy the old Memorial Bridge? Why not convert the bridge into an open-air market and pedestrian walkway? Bring more life and business to the river. We have the greatest river in the state – why not use it to the fullest? There is such a little amount of commercial business along the river as it is.
And this is the reply:
“Thanks for your idea. Wouldn’t that be great if we could do that? It would put the Bismarck-Mandan area in the national spotlight. Other cities have done that with their retired bridges, and it has turned out well for them.
“Knowing that, we at the North Dakota Department of Transportation and our consulting engineers studied that possibility. However, to rehabilitate the bridge into a safe condition that would allow it to be used for pedestrians, and then to maintain it, costs many millions of dollars. While the old bridge is currently very safe, it’s the opinion of engineers that its rate of decline will increase in coming years, Estimates varied widely, but generally ranged from $4 million to $13 million to rehabilitate the bridge and to maintain it.
“With that in mind, beginning several years ago, we investigated funding sources, local, state and federal. We pretty well tapped out available money, especially state and local money, to pay for construction of the new bridge. As you may recall, our congressional delegation worked hard to get just the funding for construction of the new bridge. The two cities tapped local sources (taxpayers) to pay for their share of the new bridge and it was not easy. So, we considered private sources, including an “adopt the bridge” idea that has been used on small projects elsewhere in the United States.
“In the end, it became apparent it would take a considerable amount of work, and it would be very expensive. The money was not there.
“I would like it if even at the last minute, some benefactor stepped forward and made it possible to keep the old bridge in a safe condition so it could be preserved. Know any?
“Thanks again for taking the time to express your interest, Kevin.”
The letter was signed by Mike Kopp, a DOT public information coordinator.
Now we know.