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Main Avenue reconstruction approved by Fargo commission

Design plans for a roundabout at Main Avenue and Second Street in Fargo. Special to The Forum1 / 2
Traffic was ramping up for the rush hour about 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 4, at Main Avenue and Fourth Street in downtown Fargo. The City Commission voted Monday to approve a plan to rebuild Main from Second Street to University Drive next summer. Helmut Schmidt / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — A $13 million to $14 million plan to completely rebuild Main Avenue from the intersection with Second Street west to University Drive in 2019 was approved by the City Commission on Monday, June 4.

A "hybrid" plan, starting with three lanes at Second Street North and gradually expanding to five lanes a couple blocks before Main intersects with University Avenue on the west end of the project, was approved unanimously by commissioners, as were adding turn lanes at the intersections with Eighth Street and Broadway and dropping a lane at the intersection with Second Street.

However, Commissioner Tony Gehrig — who had called for subdividing the vote on the project - was the lone dissenting vote in 4-1 votes to approve on a range of options to add to the project, including a roundabout at the intersection of Main and Second Street, two pedestrian crossings, new traffic cameras and messaging signs, and a counterflow lane on North University Drive, which will allow vehicles to move north one block to NP Avenue.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn praised the plan, saying that if projections of improved economic impact pan out, particularly for the north side of Main Avenue, it will be a big success.

"Doing this will hopefully be duplicating" the economic success of Broadway after it was reconstructed, Piepkorn said.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig warned that some of the changes planned for Main could slow the flow of traffic downtown.

"People aren't going to want to go downtown," if traffic moves too slowly, Gehrig said.

But Commissioner John Strand liked the community input that the city sought out.

"That was a great addition to the process," Strand said.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said the project had originally been planned for this year, but the commission decided to delay it a year to look at the economic impact of each of the project alternatives, as well as how they would affect the ability for people to walk in the area.

"If you figure it out right, you double your tax base," Mahoney said.

"This is historic for us," to look past traffic numbers and focus also on how the neighborhoods will be affected, Mahoney said.

City Transportation Division Engineer Jeremy Gorden said the removal of a traffic signal at the intersection with Seventh Street, as well construction the Second Street roundabout, will improve the flow of traffic on Main.

The plan calls for replacing the aging underground infrastructure and road surface and widening sidewalks, Gorden said.

Gorden said the final design phase of the project will start this month, with final plans ready by November or December.

If the project is approved by the highway director for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and federal highway regulators, it will be bid in February or March, with construction starting in the spring.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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