East Grand Forks to further consider street project that would trump long-awaited roundabout

Joe Bowen, Grand Forks Herald
·3 min read

Feb. 24—East Grand Forks leaders are still undecided on the order in which they'll fix or upgrade some stretches of the city's streets.

City Council members on Tuesday, Feb. 23 asked engineering consultants to put together a feasibility report for a project that would rebuild a segment of 10th Street Northeast as it runs past several businesses that sit south of U.S. Highway 2, and replace another 1,100 feet of dirt road there with tarmac. If the city ultimately goes forward with that plan, it would presumably come at the expense of an earlier one to install a roundabout at the intersection of Bygland Road Southeast and Rhinehart Drive Southeast because both would lean heavily upon a $860,000 appropriation from the federal government. That money only comes along every four years, which means whichever project doesn't go through this year may have to wait until 2024 to get started.

"I continue to get calls from my constituents asking when is that roundabout going to get built, and I keep telling them it's targeted for 2022," Council member Clarence Vetter, who's ward nearly encompasses the site of the proposed roundabout, said Tuesday. "So, to take a step back at this point in time and not do that project, I'm not in favor of it. And so I won't be voting to go forward with this and will be pushing to have the roundabout done."

The Grand Cities' shared transportation plan is put together in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Vetter worried that there might not be enough time to update the plan to accommodate the 10th Street project. He also argued that upgrading the Bygland Road corridor would benefit more Eastside residents, and rhetorically challenged other council members to watch the traffic congestion on Bygland, where Vetter estimated cars can be backed up by as much as a mile.

The roundabout would aim to ease traffic through that part of town, and the 10th Street work would get the road there in generally better condition and, city staff expect, hold back flooding and other issues for businesses there.

"Businesses out there this last summer got hit pretty hard with water," said Council member Dale Helms, whose ward encompasses the site of each proposed project. "Hopefully if we got that 10th Street fixed ... that will hopefully help that issue out there in that industrial park."

Council members agreed in 2017 to postpone the roundabout until 2022.

The most recent cost estimate for the Bygland roundabout was $1.56 million, and the most recent estimate for the 10th Street work was $2.29 million. City staff are expected to sharpen those estimates for council members as they work to make a decision.

In related news, council members:

— Told city staff to file plans and specifications for a project that would revamp a handful of downtown intersections. Engineering contractors at Widseth Smith Nolting would bid out and advertise the project, which would be paid for with $237,000 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation's "Local Partnership Program" and $53,000 from the city.

— Agreed to re-up a lease with Tri-County Community Corrections' probations department at its existing price: $10,230 per year. The department has leased space in East Grand Forks City Hall since 2018, and the new lease would extend that arrangement December 2022.