Replacement of west viaduct bridge to cause detours, temporary closures

Chuck Wickenhofer
The west viaduct will undergo construction projected to begin in the fall. The project will affect both traffic and local businesses, as detours will be set up and both Hwy 19 and 20 will be closed intermittently. The City Commission projected yesterday evening that the new bridge could take two construction seasons to build.

The Devils Lake City Commission met Monday evening, and the chief order of business during the regular session was a discussion of the upcoming work on the west end viaduct.

According to City Engineer Mike Grafsgaard, plans for the upcoming project should be completed by the end of June, as the North Dakota Department of Transportation is urging the city to get started on the major undertaking.

The first order of business will be to haul in material used to construct a temporary rail bridge, then dismantle the old bridge. Next, the new bridge will be built, with improvements to Hwy 20 to follow.

Grafsgaard reported that the work may span two construction seasons, depending on how much of the project is able to be completed by fall.

The commission expressed concerns about both access to local businesses and closures of both Hwy 19 and Hwy 20 at times. To mitigate these issues, Grafsgaard said that meetings will take place with a coordinator in order to minimize the effects of the construction on the public, and detour signs will direct traffic to local businesses affected by the replacement of the bridge.

Grafsgaard also mentioned that detour routes, including 6th St. and 6th Ave., will be reinforced with a new overlay of asphalt to support the anticipated increased traffic.

Though the commission sought to minimize the headaches for local drivers and businesses, Grafsgaard indicated that closures of two of Devils Lake’s major thoroughfares are all but inevitable.

“There will be times that Hwy 20 and Hwy 19 will have to be closed for safety reasons,” Grafsgaard said.

Executive session on Ultra Green litigation

Following the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting, an executive session that was closed to the public was held in order to discuss options to deal with the recovery of funds used to incentivize Ultra Green, of Plymouth, Minnesota, to open its recyclable goods facility in Devils Lake.

The failure of the processing plant after less than three years of operation has forced the commission to pursue possible litigation in order to recover the money the city spent as part of its jobs incentive program.  

Earlier in the year, wheat straw that had been left to rot behind the facility, which may have caused health and rodent infestation issues according to neighboring business owners, added to the list of problems that the company apparently ignored. The city was able to negotiate the removal of the troublesome waste.

City’s new police dog makes an appearance

The Devils Lake Police Department introduced another new member to the commission Monday night: Grizz, the police dog, visited the commission and the attendees at Monday evening’s meeting.

The new drug dog, reportedly a Labrador/terrier mix, goes on duty Wednesday night, according to Police Chief Keith Schroeder. Grizz will be used to detect drugs and will not be employed to subdue or detain suspects.