Federal grant sought to replace Minot’s Third Street NE bridge

Flood project linked to transportation

Jill Schramm/MDN Vehicles travel over the Third Street Northeast Bridge Tuesday. Detours and construction material are in the area due to work on the flood protection project.

Flood protection for northeast Minot will require a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad track raise, which in turn will force changes to the Third Street bridge.

The Souris River Joint Board is pursuing a $25 million federal BUILD grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation to help raise the tracks and replace the 83-year-old bridge as part of the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project.

“The genesis of this grant application has been conversations, dialogue and negotiation with BNSF regarding crossing their infrastructure. So the project contemplated in this grant application would actually replace the Third Street viaduct that goes over the top of BNSF Railway,” Ryan Ackerman, administrator for the joint board, told the Ward County Commission Tuesday. The commission voted during the meeting to ratify a letter of support for the grant request.

Ackerman said the rail raise is critical at that location because it is the first point for the railroad that goes out of service during a flood. The proposal is to raise the tracks from the Lowe’s Garden Center area to Broadway. In the vicinity of Third Street, it’s more than a six-foot raise, requiring the bridge also to be raised or, in this case, replaced.

“It has reached the end of its useful life. It’s been declared functionally obsolete by the North Dakota DOT,” Ackerman said. “We feel like the proposal that’s in front of us – if we’re successful in securing support from the federal government and also support from BNSF for financial participation in this project – will actually be able to deliver flood control, significant transportation improvements and replacement of a Third Street viaduct for a lower local cost than just delivering flood control by itself. So this is kind of a win-win-win.”

He said the joint board has applied for the grant but doesn’t expect to learn whether it will receive the award until this fall.

“We’ve engaged the congressional delegation, and they promised to shepherd this through the application review process and keep us apprised of any feedback that U.S. DOT is going to offer,” Ackerman said.

The project is located on BNSF’s Northern Transcon, which carries an average of 40 freight trains a day and is used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder for daily passenger service.

The Third Street Bridge is just over 29 feet wide with a five- to six-foot sidewalk that had been replaced in 2010, when substructure repairs were done. The bridge deck was last overlaid in 1985.

The clear width of the bridge does not meet current guidelines of the North Dakota Department of Transportation for new bridges. Standard clear width is 40 feet.

Also, current alignment of the bridge includes horizontal curvature at the north end that skews the intersection at Fifth Avenue Northeast. Clearance under the bridge for trains should be 23.5 feet and it is only 21.7 feet.

An inspection in 2018 determined the bridge superstructure and substructure were in fair condition, with the deck in satisfactory condition. However, the vertical and horizontal clearance under the bridge was identified as needing correction due to the limited clearance for trains, according to the grant application.

The bridge replacement and track raise is estimated to cost $75.76 million, which includes planning, engineering, design, construction and construction administration.

The request is for the federal grant to pay a share of railway earthwork and utilities, Amtrak platform modifications and bridge replacement and realignment. Minot’s sales tax and state legislative appropriations would each provide just over $6 million as part of the flood protection project. Another $38.6 million would need to come in large part from BNSF participation, with the remainder covered by the city and state.

The maximum grant available through the BUILD program is $25 million.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the flood project in Minot and Burlington. The Colton Avenue Bridge in Burlington has been removed and pilings are being put in place for the new bridge.

Ackerman said the Burlington levee project will be bid this fall. The Tierrecita Vallejo project likely will be bid this winter for construction beginning next spring.