Sen. Stumpf: Nielsville Bridge

Northwest Tour Day Two (6)
Nielsville Mayor David Vraa with Sens. LeRoy Stumpf and Bev Scalze on the bridge across the Red River connecting Minnesota and North Dakota.

This morning, our first stop of the day took us down a narrow road to a bridge that crosses the Red River and connects Minnesota and North Dakota. It was a beautiful morning, but the Mayor of Nielsville, who greeted us at the bridge, had some grim news. The bridge had a several foot-wide hole in the middle of it.

There were other workers there taking samples of different sections of the bridge. Mayor David Vraa explained that the bridge was used to fairly heavy traffic at this time of year – around 400 vehicles per day. Sugar beet farmers carry heavy loads back and forth across the bridge to American Crystal Sugar processing areas nearby. But since the bridge was closed, farmers and local residents are forced either five miles north or south to the closest bridges. These nearby bridges are both located on gravel roads – which makes harvest time more difficult for these rural farmers as their heavy loads grind down the soft gravel which isn’t designed for such high-traffic use.

Northwest Tour Day Two (4)

The roundabout trips across the river are also bad news for emergency vehicles. Mayor Vraa said Nielsville and other county services are contracted with North Dakota to offer fire and other safety services. With the bridge out, police are forced to add an extra 15 minutes to their response times, and fire trucks must add an additional ½ hour to their trips – making the chance of saving anything close to impossible.

The mayor expressed his frustration with the state of North Dakota. He told us Minnesota’s neighboring state seemed unwilling to offer financial help, stating that area residents would be just fine with driving out of their way for the foreseeable future. This means, if the bridge is to be fixed – even though it’s a shared border, the majority of the cost would fall on the state of Minnesota – with a price tag between $7 and $9 million.

Fixing or replacing basic infrastructure like roads and bridges is a major function of state bonding dollars. We must invest in existing infrastructure that is owned by the state. Bridges, by design, connect people to their homes, businesses, family and friends – and in this case connects two different states.

State Senator LeRoy Stumpf