No instant relief for downtown traffic jams caused by closed bridges, Main Avenue work
FARGO — Main Avenue construction kicked off Wednesday, April 17, and promptly snarled traffic in downtown where commutes were already complicated because Red River flooding has closed some bridges.
City officials don't have an immediate solution to the rush-hour gridlock, but are encouraging drivers to find alternative routes.
“The first day of detour is the absolute worst because it catches people off guard,” said Jeremy Gorden, city of Fargo transportation engineer. ”But people will adjust routes and plan accordingly, to some extent.”
Crews closed Main Avenue between Second Street and Fourth Street on Wednesday for the first phase of a project expected to last until fall.
The Main Avenue bridge is still accessible for drivers heading west from Moorhead along Main, or heading south on Second Street in Fargo where the underpass connects with Main.
But flooding and an upcoming second crest of the Red River mean that drivers cannot access the First Avenue North bridge. Drivers can still use Northern Pacific (NP) Avenue, which turns into Center Avenue in Moorhead, to cross the river.
Despite workers taking down Fargo's floodgate at First Avenue North on Thursday, April 18, the roadway remains closed because of flooding in Moorhead.
The 12th Avenue North bridge, known as the former toll bridge, is still closed as well. Gorden said both First and 12th will hopefully be open within the next 10 days.
As one bridge opens, however, another one closes. Moorhead plans to close the Center Avenue bridge in the beginning of May for a construction project.
Gorden said the project in Moorhead is set to start May 6. Ideally, he said all three bridges — First, Main and NP/Center — will be open by Monday, April 29.
Bob Zimmerman, city of Moorhead engineer, said the Center Avenue bridge won’t be closed until the First Avenue North bridge is open.
“It's unfortunate that we're still impacted by flooding,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t know if there’s any silver bullet solution. But for those who can find alternative routes, that’s recommended, and allowing more time to reach your destination.”
Rick Larson, a project manager for the city of Fargo, said Main Avenue construction has been on the books and delayed for years. He said the congestion is unavoidable for a busy street like Main.
His best bet for drivers up north is to use the bridge at County Road 20/40th Avenue North as an alternative route, or the Interstate 94 bridge to avoid downtown traffic.
"It’s a waiting game until the water recedes," Larson said.
Once the First Avenue North bridge opens, Larson said that will “naturally relieve some of the pressure” from the Main and NP Avenue bridges.
The Main Avenue bridge will remain open until later this summer when construction begins on a new roundabout near Second Street.
“It’s backed up, and when a train comes through, it doesn't help,” Larson said of the traffic. “We know it’s snarled up, but at the same time, we needed to close the entire section of Main so the contractor has room to get their work done, too.”
Find more information on the construction project here.