Dignitaries dedicate Minot’s 55th Street Bridge

The pounding of traffic over the 55th Street Bridge offered an appropriate backup to the dedication of the structure Monday.

“It’s great we have to shout because we know that the bridge is being used,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said as trucks rumbled over the bridge behind the event’s podium.

The $13.3 million bridge opened Aug. 13, and federal, state and local officials gathered to celebrate what they consider to be the happy result of a hard-fought battle and long sought-after dream. At the dedication ceremony, speakers talked about the area’s prosperity and the contribution being made to the national economy by the agricultural and energy traffic over the 55th Street Bridge.

“That’s what that bridge is all about. That is a bridge to the world,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said.

“This area is going to become a hub of transportation for the next several decades,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said, “because people right here in the Minot community had the foresight to keep working on this concept.”

Ward County Commissioner Jerome Gruenberg recalled a conversation between the commission and county engineer about a bridge and northeast bypass about 20 years ago. That vision remained elusive, even after efforts to obtain the bridge began in earnest six years ago.

Alan Estvold with Ackerman-Estvold Engineering, which engineered the project, credited Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman with keeping the project alive when funding prospects looked bleak.

“He would not let us quit,” Estvold said. “He was a staunch supporter. He never let up ever.”

Zimbelman said some of the most critical help came from North Dakota’s former U.S. senator, Kent Conrad, and the state Department of Transportation. It was former state transportation director Francis Ziegler who encouraged him not to give up when Minot’s initial hopes of a federal grant had been dashed, he said.

“Sometimes if you work hard enough, it gets done,” Zimbelman said. “Now it’s fun just to see that all that work has paid off.”

The bridge addresses a safety issue that existed with an increasing number of trucks crossing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks. The 1,100-foot bridge includes an extra long span because of plans by the railroad to build additional tracks in that area.

Zimbelman said the bridge also is critical as a major north-south access road in Minot. The bridge is part of a larger $26.2 million Northeast Bypass that developed as city and state leaders worked to get the bridge on the federal funding list.

Federal transportation funding provided $20 million for the bypass and bridge. Burlington Northern Santa Fe contributed $1.5 million. The state of North Dakota provided $1.4 million, and the city and county share, including MAGIC Fund money, came to $3.3 million.

Dalrymple stressed the importance of that collaboration.

“If we had any one of those entities not cooperating, we would not be here today,” he said.

Heitkamp added another credit.

“That bridge was built by taxpayers,” she said, calling it $20 million of federal money well spent.

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said it is difficult to advocate for more federal spending, but the 55th Street Bridge is necessary to transport products that the country needs. Unlike a proposed Alaska project that gained fame as the “bridge to nowhere,” Cramer said, the 55th Street project is the “bridge to everywhere.”