It has been a long time in the works (over eight years), a point driven home by West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern last week during the official opening of the long-awaited 9th Street overpass bridge going north and south across Interstate 94.
Build it and they will come is already ringing true - evidenced by the stream of motorists who have quickly designated it their new efficient route to and from work as a connecting link to 32nd and 40th Avenues South.
The mayor also emphasized the positive economic boost the bridge's presence should generate for the corridor, which in due time could be significant and a great boon for not only West Fargo but the entire metro area. Greater ease in providing city services to the area south of the Interstate should also help diminish some apprehension, making for easier and faster access to serve both commercial and residential areas.
This aspect was duly noted by fire and ambulance officials who are thankful for the new emergency access route, which will become even better once the ramps are in place (expected in about a month), allowing them entrance to the Interstate.
West Fargo Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider said the newly opened corridor that can now be traveled all the way to 40th Avenue South, "is going to give us better access to areas down there, and will definitely increase our response time to calls we have to answer along Veterans Boulevard."
The same principle will apply to shaving off response time to calls on the Interstate itself. At the present time, when crews respond to incidents in the westbound lane of the Interstate they have to first travel over to Fargo's 45th Street to access the incident and then travel back. "Once the ramps are in place, this will definitely improve our response time to the Interstate also," Schatschneider emphasized.
The opening of the bridge also provides an entirely new path to areas in the south that were previously more difficult to reach, with Sheyenne Street serving as the only major route.
Schatschneider said in the past if a major incident would have occurred on Sheyenne Street it could have become totally blocked off, making it impossible to get to the Southside. "Sheyenne Street rush hour is usually a traffic nightmare, only made worse when crews had to get response vehicles through. Now with Ninth Street open there will be another option if a major incident should happen. The Ninth Street route will also help reduce traffic on Sheyenne Street and give us another way to travel to Shadowwood and the Ninth Grade Academy."
Add to the Ninth Street opening, the 32nd Avenue bridge becoming drivable again (hopefully soon), and the new Southside fire station, located at 29th Avenue just west of Sheyenne Street, expected to be up and running in late 2010 and the situation gets even better, with response crews being able to provide excellent coverage to the whole area to the east.
If you haven't driven across the Ninth Street bridge yet, check it out - you'll see what the excitement is all about.