BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The bridge in question is the Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge. The Friends of Rail Bridge (FORB) is working to preserve this bridge and Thursday morning they held a press conference.
“George Morrison decide to go big or go home when he decided to construct what was then considered an engineering marvel,” said Mark Zimmerman, president of FORB.
The conference allowed the public to hear about FORB’s request for an administrative hearing, which would provide an opportunity for residents to comment on the issue of the destruction of the 1883 Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge.
“In working with local and national partner agencies and organizations to work through all the regulatory requirements and mandates that guarantee the voice of all people to be heard and acknowledged in the permitting process,” said Zimmerman.
Back in 2019, the bridge was named one of America’s most endangered Historic Places.
“From the beginning, the National Trust has supported the Friends of the Rail Bridge in their valiant efforts to seek an alternative, a compromised solution that would prevent its destruction,” said Amy Sakariassen, North Dakota’s advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
According to the National Park Service, historic places have powerful and provocative stories to tell, as witnesses to the past, they recall real events that shaped history and actual people who faced those situations.
BNSF is looking to build a new two-track bridge across the Missouri River. Lyle Witham, current in-house counsel for FORB, outlined issues in the permitting process.
“When I got involved and was asked to look at this case about a year and a half ago, it was obvious to me a lot of the important issues were overlooked or misrepresented by the railroad,” said Witham.
However, Witham states that FORB is not completely against building a new bridge.
“FORB did not oppose building a new railway between Bismarck and Mandan, FORB, in fact, supports a new railroad bridge,” said Witham. “But FORB also supports preserving the existing structure.”
FORB wants to come to a compromise with BNSF in hopes that the hearing will help address legal issues before the permit is given to BNSF.
BNSF has released the following statement:
“It is disappointing to see FORB’s latest effort to try to delay this critical project. Delaying building a new bridge has real consequences to all the North Dakota industries that rely on safe and efficient rail transportation. This is an infrastructure project that is a key part of the state and nation’s supply chain. We’ve worked with many agencies involved in the required reviews and will continue to do so. Given FORB’s announcement, they intend to litigate this matter, we won’t be commenting further on the permit process at this point.”