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Heidi Shaffer, Published August 27 2011

Weather to blame for 25th Street delay

FARGO – Planning for extending city services to Davies High School started in 2008. So why, three years later, are parents, students and teachers still dodging orange cones on 25th Street South to get to class?

Blame the weather and spring flooding, City Engineer Mark Bittner said.

A wetter-than-usual summer delayed crews on a number of city projects, and the situation on 25th Street could have been worse, Bittner said.

“For a while there, it ­didn’t even look like we were going to get it open” in time for the start of school, he said.

A late start from this spring’s flooding put the contractor in charge of finishing the underground work behind schedule. In turn, the crews charged with paving the road also got a late start, Bittner said.

But once paving got under way, the contractor – Dakota Underground – made up for lost time, he said.

“I thought they did a really super job under the circumstances,” he said. “When it was raining every other day, they kept plugging away at it.”

The 1½-mile stretch required underground utilities, paving, and curb and gutter to upgrade it from a rural road to a major city arterial street. City planners began laying out in September 2008 what work would be needed.

The City Commission voted in December 2008 to annex the land where 25th Street is now located. The first construction work began in 2010, and the roadway was expected to open to traffic by Aug. 1.

Bittner said Thursday he expected crews would finish connecting 25th Street all the way to 76th Avenue South by today. Crews were applying pavement markings Friday and expected to install traffic signs today, after which the street will open to the public.

City contracts give a contractor a completion date and set up a schedule under which the contractor would pay damages. The penalties range from $150 to $900 a day depending on the size of the contract.

Bittner said Dakota Underground had already applied for an extension for the project. He doesn’t foresee the contractor being penalized for the late opening.

“They did everything in their power to get things done,” he said.

Though the entire stretch of 25th Street should be open to traffic by the start of the school week on Monday, crews will continue finishing the additional landscaping and finishing work over the next three weeks or so, Bittner said.

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