Backlash leads city to cut costs, simplify Fargo ‘bridge to nowhere’

Fargo taxpayers let it rip when they were recently asked their opinion on the city’s proposed up to $11 million pedestrian bridge connecting City Hall to the riverfront. This excerpt from an American Experiment post on the controversy provides a sense of the outrage the publicly funded project generated among some residents.

The expected price tag of between $6 million and $11 million has some taxpayers so worked up they’re comparing the walkway to the “bridge to nowhere.” Forum News got access to the public comments submitted online on the six different designs under consideration, responses that were largely negative.

“I feel this pedestrian bridge to nowhere is unnecessary and a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money,” one person said in response.

“If this project is approved I believe it is tone deaf, not fiscally responsible, and will reflect negatively on the City Commission,” another wrote. They said this is not the time for the project because of a “nationwide recession.”

As it turns out, officials weren’t just going through the motions by soliciting public feedback. Criticisms over the project’s cost and sweeping design were clearly taken into account by the firm reworking the design. Forum notes the makeover cut the highest potential cost of the pedestrian bridge by more than half, from up to $11 million to $4.8 million on the high end for the new structure.

 In the face of strong pushback, Fargo’s “bridge to nowhere” received a lifeline in the form of a cheaper design, new potential funding and a fresh look at the city’s vision for Civic Plaza.

After overwhelmingly negative feedback from Fargo residents, a revised concept for the Second Street Pedestrian Bridge Project was presented to the Fargo City Commission by consultant KLJ Engineering during the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 27.

The revised concept will cost between $3.7 million and $4.8 million to construct. The figure does not include costs for engineering or inspection, according to Jeremy Gorden, a transportation division engineer with the city of Fargo.

KLJ’s Wade Kline said the feedback prompted the consultant to go back to the drawing board, resulting in a bridge concept that is more simple in nature, therefore reducing the overall project cost.

It remains to be seen whether Fargo residents will have an opportunity to express their reaction to City Hall concerning the cost and design of the latest proposed iteration of the walkway. At least one city commissioner appears to prefer the more expansive and expensive versions of the bridge, concluding there’s no way to please everyone.

Commissioner Arlette Preston said the reduced cost likely won’t be enough to sway residents who feel the bridge is too expensive, however. The simplified design is likely to drive away residents who support a more iconic bridge, she said.

“We’re going to end up with a bridge that no one likes,” Preston said.

If so, at least it will be a bridge that costs millions less than first proposed. But city officials continue to seek outside funding from other government programs to further minimize the cost to local taxpayers, some of whom question the need for the project in the first place.