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Veterans Boulevard a work in progress

Electronic signs advise motorists from several directions that Veterans Boulevard will be closed starting Wednesday. Veterans Boulevard between 32nd Avenue South and 40th Avenue South is being rebuilt and widened from a two-lane blacktop to five lanes - two lanes each way plus a turning lane. Dave Wallis / The Forum

One of West Fargo's busiest thoroughfares will be a work in progress as crews begin phase one today (May 1) of a two-phase reconstruction project that will widen Veterans Boulevard from a two-lane rural section to a four-lane divided urban section with medians and turn lanes.

The first phase will result in a total closure of north/south traffic on 32nd Avenue to 36th Avenue, with the intersection at 36th Avenue remaining open. The second phase, expected to begin June 1, will close the remaining corridor south to 40th Avenue making for a complete closure from 32nd to 40th. Both intersections at 32nd and 40th will remain open to east and west traffic with temporary delays as necessary.

Traffic message boards have been and will be utilized in advance of each projects start date to make motorists more aware of the closures.

As a part of the widening project, the new surfaces will be paved using concrete and both the cities of West Fargo and Fargo will be installing water main and storm sewer facilities in their respective corridors. These utilities will serve the surrounding developments and improve drainage along the Veterans Boulevard corridor.

Traffic signal improvements will also be made at 32nd and 40th Avenues along with a new traffic signal being installed at 36th Avenue.

The starting schedule was supposed to be the middle of April but was revised because of wet weather conditions. Projected completion date for the work and the reopening of the corridor is Aug. 15, (weather permitting) with other subsidiary work expected to continue until Oct. 15.

Veterans Boulevard first opened in August of 2009 with the realization of the new overpass bridge crossing Interstate 94 and the completion of the roadway to 32nd Avenue south. Ninth Street East changes into Veterans Blvd. on the south side of the Interchange, going all the way through to Fargo's 52nd Avenue.

Prior to the completion of the interstate bridge and roadway, the area was a dirt road with only farmland (wheat fields) to the south along with the Sheyenne Ninth Grade Academy on the corner of 40th Avenue.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee said at that time the two-lane roadway was more than adequate.

"We did traffic counts at the time and a two-lane rural section was fine up to the last few years when the the new school and development really busted loose driving traffic counts up."

Brownlee noted that both residential and commercial development started to flourish, resulting in Shadow Wood, Shadow Creek, South Pond at the Preserves, as well as Freedom Elementary School, Costco, and Sanford on the east side. "With all the development coming into the picture, traffic volume was driven up dictating the need for the construction upgrade."

On that note, traffic count is presently at almost 5000 vehicles a day while estimates for the year 2035 are 16,400 vehicles per day.

With the ongoing construction, motorists that rely on Veterans Boulevard are going to have to shift their routes. Brownlee said the primary detour for north and south traffic will be to Sheyenne Street.

He said that pushing all that extra traffic onto Sheyenne Street, which is already very busy, will naturally make for slower traffic and longer waits at lights for the three to four months the project is expected to take. He noted that this dilemma occurs with any construction project, citing recent work on Main Avenue reconstruction.

Cost for the project will be a 50-50 West Fargo-Fargo split with each city responsible for their own water and storm sewer work. The bid for the entire project was $5,467,357, awarded to Dakota Underground of Fargo. The funding for the West Fargo portion will come from two sources: special assessments against the benefiting properties; and the city has also agreed to use some sale tax money to cover the cost of the first asphalting of the road so that the specials are equal to the costs on the northern section of Veterans Boulevard.