Toll to come off northside Fargo-Moorhead bridge
The employee working the toll booth will end his final shift at 2 p.m. Friday, when representatives from the cities will collect the toll booth keys.
“Then our guy will leave,” said Steven Aakre, attorney for the Bridge Co., the North Dakota corporation that has privately owned and operated the bridge since 1988.
The city of Fargo is preparing to update signs near the bridge to reflect the elimination of the toll, said Acting Mayor Tim Mahoney. The city has already implemented a four-way stop on 12th Avenue North and Elm Street in anticipation of increased traffic when the toll is lifted.
Removal of the toll was ordered Friday morning by Cass County District Judge Frank Racek, giving the cities the power to take over the bridge.
The city of Moorhead sued Bridge Co. and the city of Fargo in May 2013, arguing that the 1988 contract signed by all three parties expired and the bridge should be handed over to public control. The contract gave Bridge Co. the right to build, operate and own the bridge for 25 years, with the possibility of extensions.
Bridge Co. has argued it deserves a five-year extension, but Racek ruled against it and ordered the bridge to be transferred to the cities. Bridge Co. has appealed that decision to the North Dakota Supreme Court.
At a hearing last week, Racek told Bridge Co. it could keep operating the bridge during its Supreme Court appeal if it posted a $320,000 bond by Wednesday.
But Bridge Co. failed to provide the bond because the amount was too high for the company’s two shareholders, Kip Moore and Jim Dixon, Aakre said.
“They pay a premium to a bonding company to get the bond, and then also have to pledge assets and they have to put up real dollars to back up the bond,” Aakre said. “We just kind of saw that it was too expensive.”
At last week’s hearing, Racek said that if Bridge Co. failed to provide the bond, he would order the transfer of the bridge to the cities today – a likely outcome, according to Aakre.
“My guess is that shortly after 9 o’clock tomorrow, the documents will be signed that convey the property from the bridge company to the cities,” he said Thursday.
“We’re excited about it,” Mahoney said Thursday. “If the judge signs the order tomorrow, we pick up the keys, we turn off the toll.”