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Should Fargo-Moorhead trade its one-way streets for two-ways? Studies show safety, economic benefits

Joe Burgum, seen Thursday, Jan. 17, on the 0 Block of University Drive North in Fargo, would like Fargo and Moorhead to consider changing their one-way streets to two-way traffic. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — Entrepreneur and community builder Joe Burgum would like to start a conversation in both Fargo and Moorhead about changing some one-way streets into two-ways.

Burgum, who founded the Folkways community building collective, said changing one-ways like Fargo's 10th Street and University Drive into two-ways could be problematic because they are part of the U.S. highway system. But he said the one-ways in Moorhead's residential areas near Concordia and Minnesota State University Moorhead should be changed.

"I'm not explicitly advocating for two-ways, but I think it's something that's worth a study," he said. "I would like to bring people together and have a conversation among neighbors to start a grassroots effort."

He said he didn't know whether a city-initiated study or, because of the highway system, a Department of Transportation examination would be the way to go in Fargo.

As for Moorhead's one-ways, he said he would definitely support converting those two-ways as from an urban perspective there isn't the traffic to warrant them. "I think it would be fantastic and would really add to the campuses, too," he said.

Burgum said studies have shown that changing to two-ways has resulted in less crime, lower crash rates, more stable neighborhoods with higher property values and more economic advantages for on-street businesses.

It's the slower speeds of two-ways that can provide economic advantages and improve safety. He noted that on one-ways, drivers sometimes swerve around city buses when passengers are unloading. He said two-ways are safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Burgum pointed to a study in The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability that says perhaps as many as 100 cities in North America are engaged in lively debates on the pros and cons of the conversion back to two-ways.

The authors, William Riggs and John Gilderbloom, said there's always resistance as commute times could increase as some "believe streets should be designed for mobility and for cars to get from point A to B in the most efficient manner."

The two authors in their study, which looked at cities such as Louisville, Ky., that has transformed many streets, found that data shows the conversions can "significantly reduce collisions, foreclosures and abandonment, as well as increase property values."

The authors also say "improved livability is achievable if communities are willing to reinvest in their streets as multi-modal corridors that support bikes and pedestrians as well as cars."

Burgum plans to give a presentation on the topic at a meeting of the Fargo Neighborhood Coalition at noon Saturday, Jan. 19, in the Spirit Room, 111 Broadway N.

Some of Fargo's core neighborhoods, where some of the one-ways run through, are concerned about their futures with proposed multi-family housing, rental homes, and blighted properties in their midst. Those concerns will also be addressed at Saturday's meeting.