Fargo drops ‘bridge to nowhere’ due to overwhelming taxpayer opposition

For the second time in as many days, opponents of a controversial proposed development in a North Dakota city triumphed over the political establishment, ending another overwhelmingly unpopular, though once seemingly unstoppable, project in its tracks. Widespread opposition convinced the Fargo City Commission to vote down a pedestrian “bridge to nowhere” estimated to cost up to $11 million at one point, a day after Grand Forks city officials rejected a highly controversial Chinese corn milling plant that divided the community for a year.

All but one Fargo commissioner, Mayor Tim Mahoney, voted to kill the sweeping walking bridge designed to tie city hall to the riverfront, which Forum News attributed to taxpayer opposition.

After widely negative public feedback, a downtown Fargo project nearly 10 years in the making has been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

The Fargo City Commission on Monday, Feb. 6, voted 4-1 to cancel the Second Street Pedestrian Bridge Project, giving back the $2.4 million in federal funds after extended public outcry.

City officials downsized the scope of the pedestrian bridge last fall, cutting the cost to about $5 million. But sentiment against the project evidently remained intense.

When asked for their thoughts on the bridge project, survey takers were “overwhelming… opposed to the project,” according to KLJ’s Public Engagement Report, noting that a large percentage of the objections were cost based.

Out of 121 survey comments, 72% were in opposition to the project, 17% were of mixed opinion and 11% were supportive of the project, according to the report.

Comments also showed that residents strongly questioned the need for the project at all.

“It’s a bridge to nowhere and a stupid idea. Spend the money on something more important,” a comment said, while another said it was a terrible location for a bridge.

The plan to create a new Civic Plaza area outside city hall with possible venues for concerts and events will apparently move forward. But the centerpiece of the proposed project, the pedestrian bridge, will no longer be part of the plan.

“We have heard from our citizens throughout this process,” [Commissioner Denise] Kolpack said. “I certainly am taking their input to heart on this case. It’s clear that a majority have spoken.”

Given other city projects competing for funding, Kolpack said the bridge isn’t a priority.