Funding approved to repair pedestrian bridge

The Duluth City Council has approved a plan to spend $3 million from the city’s tourism tax to repair and rehabilitate the problematic blue bridge, a pedestrian bridge along the city’s lakefront that serves as a link between shops and eateries along Canal Park and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

The tax is generated from local hotel/motel stays and sales of food and beverages.

The bridge is notoriously finicky. The Duluth News Tribune has extensively documented its foibles since it opened in 1991. Last year alone, the bridge was rendered mechanically inoperable for 32 days, not including a few days when was closed because of high winds.

During a debate over the plan this month, Council Member Jay Fosle objected to using tourism revenue to repair the bridge, saying the city has been warned not to be tempted to use that revenue for such things as basic infrastructure.

“If a bridge isn’t infrastructure I don’t know what is,” he said.

But David Montgomery, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the bridge can be tied to tourism.

Concerns over the bridge malfunctioning have caused the city to lose business because visitors would find it difficult to make their way back to their hotels and the convention center, Montgomery said.

“This city attracts 4 million visitors a year,” he said. “Many folks arguably will say that almost everything we do in this city is tourism-related. But you have to have a fairly direct connection for the tourism tax.”

The measure to use the funding passed by a 8-1 vote. The city will use $500,000 from the tax on repairs and rehabilitation each year through 2021.

Mark Brunswick


Corps awards diversion contract to metro firm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tapped a Minnesota company for a $46 million construction contract on a massive Red River flood control project — a project the state of Minnesota opposes.

Ames Construction Inc., of Burnsville won the contract and would begin work next spring on a concrete flood-control structure that would regulate the flow of floodwater into a 36-mile channel around Fargo.

The diversion plan also calls for a dam across the Red River to back floodwater into fields and prairie to the south.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources denied a permit for the dam in October, citing environmental and safety concerns.

The Corps is forging ahead with construction on the North Dakota side of the river, despite Minnesota’s objections and ongoing court challenges.

It has announced plans for a groundbreaking ceremony in the spring of 2017.

“This is a very important milestone for the project,” Col. Sam Calkins, St. Paul District commander for the Corps, said. “It marks the start of federal construction and the first major step toward permanent flood risk management for the Fargo-Moorhead area.”

Jennifer Brooks