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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 09 2010

Downtown Fargo intersections crumbling

Revamping crumbling colored brick on two downtown Fargo intersections likely won’t start until 2011, say city engineers.

Until then, expect concrete and asphalt patches on the intersections of Broadway with NP Avenue and Broadway with First Avenue North, said transportation engineer Jeremy Gorden and civil engineer Kristy Schmidt.

Permanent repairs are being delayed until the NP Avenue/First Avenue North corridor study is finished this fall and it’s decided whether those streets will stay one-ways or if they’ll become two-way streets, they said.

Creating two-way roads will require street-widening and curb and gutter work in some spots, Gorden said.

“We don’t want to do it twice,” Schmidt said of the brickwork.

Thanks to the last couple of years of heavy truck traffic during spring floods and the region’s intense freeze-thaw cycle, the decorative brick is crumbling faster than ever since it was installed in 2002.

“They’ve really gotten hammered through the floods,” Schmidt said.

Replacing the brick will cost $25,000 to $30,000, Gorden estimated. What will be more significant are the couple weeks of detours needed to rebuild the intersections, he said.

More-durable pavers were installed at Broadway’s intersections with Second, Fourth and Sixth avenues, Schmidt said.

Rick Lane, the principal engineer at SRF Consulting Group, was Fargo’s traffic engineer as the streetscaping project was first debated and built.

Lane said one of the landscape architects, Ciaccio Dennell Group of Omaha, “assured us that they (the stones) would be fine” with the heavy traffic and extreme climate, Lane said.

But “it was obvious after the first phase that we thought they weren’t holding up as well as we thought they should,” Lane said.

The brick at the NP and First Avenue North intersections was selected because it provided a range of colors, but it wasn’t made to the tougher compression standards needed for the high-traffic intersections, Schmidt said.

Lane said some stakeholders preferred to have the extra colors of brick for the streets’ patterns. Now, it appears a better choice would have been the tougher brick.

“Our winters seem to be more severe than in Omaha and other places,” he said.

The $8 million Broadway streetscape project, Island Park to Ninth Avenue North, was completed between spring 2002 and fall 2004. It involved the complete reconstruction of the street, from sewer and water lines and roads to streetlamps and flower baskets.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583