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The old North Valley Bridge is set for demolition on Sept. 17 after serving the residents of Valley City and north central Barnes County, as well as thousands upon thousands of visitors to Lake Ashtabula over the past several decades.
The last vehicles crossed the bridge on the afternoon of Aug. 16, when traffic was then permanently switched over to the new, $2.4 million North Valley Bridge, built along the east side of the existing bridge.
Barnes County Commissioner Cindy Schwehr, who travels the route across the bridge between work in the city and her house near Lake Ashtabula, said she plans to be at the demolition.
â€śItâ€™s just personal, because I wanted to watch and itâ€™s going to go down fast,â€ť Schwehr said.
Barges will float under the bridge as it is demolished to catch any debris that would normally fall into the river. Any debris that bypasses the barges will be dredged out.
Following the removal of the bridge, clean-up work will done in the ditches and trees and seeding will be planted by Pine Country Nursery in Valley City.
The new North Valley Bridge offers a safer route of travel for pedestrians and motorists alike. The old, notoriously narrow North Valley Bridge was home to several close calls as cars, trucks, farm equipment, bicyclists, runners and several different species of wildlife were relegated to the same traffic channel. The new, 35-foot-wide bridge has a segregated pedestrian path that, along with the expanded traffic artery, offers safer passage from one side of the Sheyenne River to the other.
The new bridge is also 4 to 4.5 feet higher than the former bridge. The original plans were for a 2 foot increase in the bridgeâ€™s height, but after the it was closed during record flooding in 2009 and 2011, the county commission decided to do whatever possible to be sure the bridge never went underwater again.
The bridge was just one of many road projects the county is working on.
A November bid letting is set for a grade raise and road realignment on County Road 32 east of County Road 7 in the southwest corner of the county where Meadow Lake has been expanding for years, swallowing farmland and roads.
Hill slides east of Kathryn on County Road 38 and near the Bayshore Resort on County Road 21 are scheduled for repair in the near future. Both projects will impede traffic one week for County Road 38 and three weeks for County Road 21.
Work is also planned for grade raises near Urbana and Eckelson Lake next year.
At the next meeting of the Barnes County Commission, the commission will vote on weather to spend about $15,000 for signs to help drivers navigate the network of county highways.
â€śIâ€™ve come up with a total of 125 signs at about $120 a sign, and I figure about a 10 percent replacement rate,â€ť said Barnes County Highway Superintendent Kerry Johnson.
Johnson said the funds would only cover the cost of materials, and setting up the sings will take quite some time.