WEST FARGO — In a surprise move, the North Dakota Department of Transportation will be opening most of the Sheyenne Street interchange by Tuesday, Oct. 1, and then a few days later open the new Interstate 94 bridge.
The surprise comes about two weeks ahead of schedule, meaning the end to a lot of the head-to-head traffic in the area from north of the new interchange to near the Sheyenne River diversion bridges on the south and also on the interstate.
However, the new interchange will likely be a bit confusing for drivers as they get used to the new ins and outs of the interchange.
"The interchange is the first of its kind in North Dakota so until you’re familiar with driving the corridor, it will be important to drive with focus as we all learn to navigate the new interchange design together,” said Joe Peyerl, assistant Fargo district engineer for NDDOT.
"A large majority of the travel will remain the same. What has changed is that northbound Sheyenne Street traffic flow never stops. Southbound traffic and interstate ramp traffic are guided effortlessly through the interchange by the use of medians and a single traffic light system," Peyerl said.
As it opens this week, southbound traffic on Sheyenne Street will use a new loop ramp to go eastbound on I-94 that will take them onto one lane of the new I-94 bridge, although the rest of the bridge won't open until possibly on Friday, Oct. 4. That will eliminate the temporary I-94 access for southbound traffic going east onto I-94 that was previously just south of the bridges.
As for northbound motorists, they will continue to use the new ramp that opened about three weeks ago for traffic going eastbound on I-94.
However, northbound traffic on Sheyenne Street going westbound on I-94 will have a signal light directing them under the bridges that will go across the southbound lanes and then use a new ramp on the northwest side of the interchange.
There will be no pedestrian traffic yet in the area as that temporary ramp has to be removed and sidewalk connections need to be finished.
The complete interchange won't open until some median work is completed under and near the new bridge.
Peyeryl said the benefit of the new interchange design is that it reduces rush hour congestion, increases capacity for traffic, improves roadway drainage and increases pedestrian and driver safety.
Also opening later this week will be the newly expanded diversion bridge for northbound traffic.
Farther south on the Sheyenne Street project, the last of the concrete driving lanes have been poured. Crews are working on intersection connections, turning lanes, curbs and gutters, the raised colored concrete and pavers in the medians and the sidewalks on both sides of the street.
In other construction and traffic updates:
52nd Avenue South in Fargo: Two intersections along the project route have opened to traffic. The intersection on 47th Street was opened to only right-in and right-out traffic while the 53rd Street intersection is open to traffic in both directions.
Meanwhile, all of the driving lanes on the huge southwest Fargo project that is converting the roadway from a two-lane to a four-lane roadway are now poured as work was completed west of Veterans Boulevard.
While one of the bridges over the drainage ditch was opened weeks ago, the other new bridge is nearing completion as workers were putting on guard rails and doing some final dirt work around the outside of the bridge.
Other work ongoing on 52nd Avenue includes center medians, turn lanes, curbs and gutters, bases for street lights and decorative concrete work.
Main Avenue in Fargo: The big change is that pedestrian traffic will switch back to the north side of Main Avenue from Veterans Memorial Bridge into Fargo. This will allow workers to complete some connecting work to Second Street South.
Other work in the area is landscaping, roadway striping near the roundabout and the pouring of the foundation for a new "dynamic message sign" by Daktronics that will warn drivers if train traffic is blocking intersections ahead.
Although the entire Main Avenue is expected to open to traffic by Oct. 11, Second Street South likely won't be ready until after that date as work continues on the flood wall project in that area. Another contractor is working on that project as well as the new roadway there.
Gov. Doug Burgum, who is hosting the Western Governor's Association meeting in downtown Fargo this week, will be doing a bus tour of the Main Avenue project on Tuesday, to give visiting governors and staff a look at how it fits into the revitalized downtown area.
Interstates 94 and 29: Weather permitting, crews will be doing repair work on the traffic count system on the interstates in the metro. The work is scheduled from 6 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 3, to 7 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4. Traffic lanes will be switching or closed in the overnight project from 12th Avenue to 19th Avenue on I-29 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and from University Drive to Eighth Street in Moorhead on I-94 from 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. Traffic counts on the interstates show there are about 40,000 vehicles on I-94 on a daily basis, with about 25,000 on I-29.
Eighth Avenue North in Moorhead: Eighth Avenue North, west of 34th Street, has been closed until Oct. 31 to install curbs and gutters, along with a new sidewalk along the south side and storm sewer work to improve drainage in the area.