Support for a bridge over the rail tracks on a county road is growing, and that’s good news for the community.
Koochiching County is seeking a federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant, which would help fund an overpass on dead-end County State Aid Highway 24, also known as the Van Lynn Road, to carry vehicles over the Canadian National Railway tracks.
The county’s application got the attention of Congressman Pete Stauber Monday, when he met with local officials in a round table discussion in Northome.
Commissioner Kevin Adee, who knows firsthand the challenges living on the wrong side of the tracks brings, clearly described the need for the overpass: safety first, convenience second. Adee is a resident of the road.
Local officials have long argued a solution is needed before train delays result in a life-or-death situation.
The idea that fire trucks and ambulances may be delayed until a train stalled on the tracks can be separated seemed to stick with Stauber, as he noted the public safety concern.
In addition, the International Falls City Council approved a resolution supporting the BUILD grant for the overpass.
Unfortunately, the effort to fix this long-standing concern is about a year behind where it could be. The Koochiching County Board June 29, 2018, began the application process for a BUILD grant to use for the overpass fix, but also included a request for money to construct a connector road that would allow vehicles to exit the Van Lynn Road onto Highway 11 east of Ranier.
That application was rejected.
While it may someday be wonderful to have that connector road, and other wants fulfilled in our community, county officials knew the $10 million estimated cost would leave little money for other county road needs.
So about one year ago, the county shot for the stars, and got nothing from the BUILD grant.
This time, the BUILD grant application may be considered more positively because it’s a reasonable and financially appropriate fix to the problem, and won’t add to the county’s road maintenance burden.
We, too, throw our support for the grant to fund an immediate answer to residents’ needs.