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Mayors officially open 9th Street bridge to traffic

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern, left, leads Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker to a Pontiac Firebird for a ceremonial drive Friday over the 9th Street overpass over Interstate 94. Michael Vosburg/The Forum

The overpass bridge crossing Interstate 94 on 9th Street East at 19th Avenue South, officially opened Friday, Aug. 21, with West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern and Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, first to have the honors to drive over it.

"This is a very historic occasion that has been in the works for at least eight years," Mattern told the small crowd assembled. "It has been a long time coming and I'm usually not at a loss for words, but this is mindboggling," Mattern said referencing the opportunity for retail expansion that will now present itself along the Interstate route.

Walaker said the selection of the Veterans Boulevard name for the roadway that connects West Fargo to Fargo "is probably the most fitting one" of those suggested. The idea for the naming is credited to Mattern whose choice was adopted by the West Fargo City Commission quite some time ago, and has now also been endorsed by Fargo. Ninth Street East changes into Veterans Boulevard on the south side of the Interchange, going all the way through to Fargo's 52nd Avenue.

Even though the crossroads are now open for motorists to travel north and south across the bridge, travelers are not yet able to access the Interstate as there are still ramps to be put in place, action which should be completed in approximately a month, according to North Dakota Department of Transportation Assistant District Engineer Kevin Gorder.

Both Mattern and Walaker commended the cooperative effort in seeing the project to completion, with Mattern noting the excellent timing with the start of the new school year.

Walaker agreed. "This will be an extremely wonderful point of access," he noted. "None of these projects would get done without the cooperation of everybody who spends hours out here," mentioning specifically the contractors, and officials from the state of North Dakota, and the cities of West Fargo and Fargo.

Overall cost for the work is estimated at about $12 million. Funding for the bridge is 75% West Fargo and 25% Fargo; the ramps are 100% federal and state; and Veterans Boulevard a 50-50 split by West Fargo and Fargo.

The official drive across the bridge was completed at about 3 p.m. in Commissioner Mark Simmons 1985 burgundy Pontiac Firebird t-top with license plates "COMMISH." Mattern did the driving, with Walaker in the front passenger seat and Simmons and City Administrator Jim Brownlee riding in the backseat.