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Heidi Shaffer, Published September 05 2010

Southside road construction project bids under review

Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams said the city needs to slow down and examine other options on the planned 25th Street South road project near the new Davies High School.

The commission will vote Tuesday on whether to accept bids on a portion of the total paving project, and Williams said he will vote to decline the bids and ask engineers to examine smaller, cheaper options.

The projects up for bid Tuesday represent paving and incidentals on 25th Street from 58th to 64th avenues south. The cheapest bid came in at $1.3 million, about $200,000 more than engineers estimated.

The current plan calls for a four-lane roadway with a frontage road and three roundabouts along 25th Street. Paving, sewer and water main work for the area totals about $11.9 million. A majority of the cost of projects that expand infrastructure south to Davies is being passed through special assessments to neighboring residents, who have debated the fairness of such taxes.

Cutting down the size of the projects could help shrink assessments, Williams said.

But Mayor Dennis Walaker said the projects engineers have planned are wise investments in future ex­pansion.

“Fifteen to 20 years from now, I think people will say it’s a good decision,” Walaker said Friday.

Williams said he wants a roadway that can service the school but to keep it to scale so that the city can promote development to fill in areas closer to already existing infrastructure.

Commissioner Brad Wimmer said his question to engineers on Tuesday will be whether discussion on the project can be extended and keep work on schedule for Davies’ fall 2011 opening.

Wimmer said he favors looking at how the projects are assessed rather than changing the construction plans.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he will also question whether engineers could scale back the plan.

“But I want to make sure we don’t minimize the road and have to rebuild it again,” Piepkorn said.

Commissioner Tim Mahoney could not be reached for comment on Friday. City Engineer Mark Bittner said depending on what kind of roadway the commission would direct engineers to build, it could potentially cut paving costs in half.

But choosing a temporary asphalt road could be a short-lived fix because it would need to be ripped up and redone when the city decided to expand, Bittner said.

The addition of roundabouts to the project has both pros and cons, Williams said, adding the structures may slow traffic but also increase the number of times a pedestrian has to cross the roadway.

At a meeting last month with homeowners in the assessment district, city engineers said the roundabouts will help slow traffic along 25th Street to the high school.

“We’re really thinking about safety and controlling speed in this area,” City Traffic Engineer Jeremy Gorden told residents.

The roundabouts cost about $100,000 to $150,000 more than putting in traffic signals, Gorden said.

Heather Soleim, a homeowner at 5894 Silverleaf Drive, said she hopes the city rethinks the roundabouts but also hopes commissioners take a fresh look at the whole proposal.

“If this is a way to get the commissioners to start looking at the projects again and making some different decisions, then I think this is great,” Soleim said.

Deer Creek addition up for approval

The City Commission will also get a chance to weigh in on approval for the Deer Creek addition.

Fargo’s city planners are recommending approval of the city’s southernmost residential area located west of Interstate 29.

The 222-acre development by Paces Lodging Corp. is directly adjacent to both Horace and West Fargo. It would contain about 800 smaller, more affordable homes than in previous developments, said City Planner Jim Gilmour.

The commission will vote on rezoning the land from agricultural to single-dwelling residential.

Building would likely begin next year, Gilmour said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511