The toll bridge across the Red River between Moorhead, MN, and Fargo, ND, built in 1988, has a unique distinction.
“It is the only bridge in this country in the last 45 to 50 years to be built with private funds,” said Mark Moore, bridge attendant. “If you know your American history, you know there were a lot of them in the early days, colonial days mostly. The people who use it are really thankful. It saves about a half-hour going to work if they live in Moorhead and work over in North Fargo.”
The pre-stressed-concrete bridge, owned by The Bridge Co. in Moorhead, is approximately 500 ft. long and 32 ft. wide, with a 5-ft.-wide walkway. The toll is 75 cents, or 10 tokens for $5.
“A lot of people here didn’t even know what a toll was when it opened,” said Moore. “It was a novelty around here.”
An earlier wooden toll bridge crossed the Red near here in the late 1800s for horse and buggies. It burned down. Some said it was burned down on purpose because residents didn’t want more people coming to Moorhead, which included numerous bars and other establishments.
Then a ferry started, and finally the present bridge was built.
The Bridge Co. is owned by Clifford Moore, president; Jacob Sigmund, who was a displaced person from Germany; and Jim Dixon. It carries approximately 2,000 cars a day.
“You couldn’t believe the red tape and pencils which we had to go through to build the bridge,” said Moore. “We had to go through 23 government agencies, including the Coast Guard because the Red River is classified as navigable.”
The three partners financed the $2.1-million structure by selling tax-exempt city of Moorhead bonds, and also raised money from private sources.
Moore said private toll bridges are a tough business, “We’re paying for the tolls but not making any money. I have toll attendants 24 hours a day, plus utility bills. We pay $30,000 real estate taxes to North Dakota and Minnesota, plus another $25,000 for insurance. We pay a school tax, city tax, and county tax. We’re serving the public, and saved the taxpayers $2 million and now we have to pay taxes on it. Government bridges don’t pay any taxes. This doesn’t seem right.
“When we built our bridge we were the fourth toll bridge in Minnesota. One of these, in the Minneapolis area, had been an old railroad bridge. The owner took the tracks off, charged tolls, but didn’t keep up the maintenance. We looked at buying it but decided not to.”