Talk regarding West Fargo's Main Avenue reconstruction has been going on for what seems like an eternity. Actually, it's been about a decade, in fact at the start of Mayor Rich Mattern's term in 2002, he cited it as a priority issue.
This past week, there appears to be some real progress.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation announced that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) regarding the reconstruction of West Fargo Main Avenue from Interstate 94 to 45th Street East. The FONSI identifies preferred alternatives and options for the reconstruction of West Fargo Main Avenue and is the final step in an environmental process. Once the FONSI is released, it means the project is a 'go,' providing the green light to move forward into the design phase and tentatively begin reconstruction of a segment of Main Avenue in the spring of 2009.
Plans are now in place to complete the project in three phases: Phase 1, from the Sheyenne River to 5th Street (the downtown area) which is expected to take approximately a year; Phase II, 5th Street to the edge of town (45th Street), earmarked for 2012; and Phase III, from the Sheyenne River west to the Interstate, projected for 2015.
So should the FONSI findings really be taken seriously as a sign of long awaited life for Main Avenue reconstruction to finally begin?
City officials quickly say 'yes.'
"We now have a project," City Administrator Jim Brownlee stated. "This is really good news that it passed federal review."
Of course, all of this is still contingent upon one very important element - that there is federal funding available for the work at the time the work is to begin.
Technically, the project is still not funded, but 'schedule money' for Phase I in 2009 has been allocated.
Brownlee noted that nothing is set in stone, and that the funding situation can change any time up until the last minute; nonetheless, city officials are optimistic that the monies will be there and that the project will at last be able to commence at the allotted time.
Total project cost is estimated at $60 million, with federal dollars covering 80 percent of the bill and the State of North Dakota and the City of West Fargo sharing equally with their respective ten percent commitments.
Anyone who'd like more information or to view the details of the FONSI, can visit www.westfargo.com.
The report is also available for public viewing at West Fargo City Hall, Moore Engineering, the Fargo District office of NDDOT, the West Fargo Public Library, and the Cass County Highway Department office.