By Mary Jo Almquist, Published August 19 2002
Work accommodates back-to-school shoppingIt's back-to-school shopping time, and that means even more traffic on Interstate 29 and 13th Avenue South.
Rusty Papachek, West Acres mall manager, said he generally sees about a 10 percent increase in traffic each August due to back-to-school shoppers.
"It usually starts in late July, and gets stronger each week," Papachek said. "We've already noticed an increase this year."
That's why Papachek said he is thrilled to see that the North Dakota Department of Transportation has been making progress on the I-29 construction project.
"They're opening things earlier than we expected, and that only helps us," he said. "We originally had some concerns that the construction would affect back-to-school shopping, but it really hasn't."
Despite the ongoing construction project, which began in mid-March, Papachek said business has been up each month. He expects to see about a 30 percent increase in sales during August.
Kevin Gorder, NDDOT project engineer, said workers have been making an extra effort to have the interstate and 13th Avenue as close to "back to normal" as they can for the back-to-school shoppers.
Last week, a second east-bound lane opened on 13th Avenue from 38th Street to 34th Street. The contract didn't require this to be done until Sept. 28, but Gorder said contractors wanted to accommodate the traveling public.
"We hope that the opening of a second eastbound lane will help drive more traffic through the 13th Avenue corridor and help decrease delays in the area," he said.
For Gorder and the NDDOT, back-to-school time also means a loss of some workers. Both the department of transportation and Northern Improvement Co. -- lead contractors for the $23.6 million project -- employ college students on the project.
These students make up about 20 percent of Gorder's staff.
Progress will continue this week on both 13th Avenue and the interstate to accommodate the increase in traffic, Gorder said.
"We're pushing to get traffic on the new road," he said. "Soon, it will be as busy as before construction."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531.