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"Friends of the Rail Bridge" continue working to save the 1883 bridge

Attorney Lyle Witham discusses FORB's options on saving the 1883 rail bridge
Dave Thompson
Attorney Lyle Witham discusses FORB's options on saving the 1883 rail bridge

A group that wants to save the 1883 railroad bridge between Bismarck and Mandan over the Missouri River says it is not giving up on its efforts.

Burlington Northern Railroad wants to tear it down and replace it with a new two-track span that the railroad says is designed for modern rail traffic.

The group “Friends of the Rail Bridge – has been working for a number of years to save it – and make it a pedestrian walkway. BN would then build a new bridge with new piers.

"Loss of this bridge should be unthinkable to us," Amy Sakariassesn, North Dakota's advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, spoke at a Bismarck news conference. "It's more than stone and steel. It is a bridge to our past, and in understanding who we are, a bridge to our future."

The group is pursuing a number of legal avenues to save the bridge – including fighting the railroad’s attempts to have a Sovereign Lands permit issued by the State Engineer and the state Water Resources Board, allowing the bridge to be torn down.

The group’s president -- Mark Zimmerman – said preserving the bridge will be an asset to the Bismarck-Mandan community. And he said saving it will produce numerous benefits, beyond recreation and tourism.

"That includes fostering civic pride, increasing historic awareness, and stimulating economic development along the Missouri River," Zimmerman said. "Some of our greatest attractions in the area are the historic sites within the view of this great bridge."

Supporters point to a 2019 feasibility study –conducted by NDSU Landscape Architecture – which said repurposing the bridge is economically, culturally and environmentally feasible.

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