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Wendy Reuer, Published February 19 2012

Traffic upgrades planned for Moorhead

MOORHEAD – Plans are in the works to help Moorhead drivers get around easier.

The city of Moorhead, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments have been working on ways to ease traffic flow through downtown.

Motorists will get their first chance to see the results this summer with a $4.5 million MnDOT project to change six signals in the Main Avenue and Eighth Street areas. Four will be on Main Avenue, said Dana Casey Hanson, MnDOT spokesperson.

MnDOT will use signals on an Intelligent Transportation System that uses data-gathering cameras. The cameras do not record what happens, but provide real-time data, said MetroCOG Executive Director Wade Kline.

Kline said the real-time data can be used by emergency dispatchers to determine what resources are needed at an accident or during a weather emergency. Drivers in Minneapolis-area cities often use camera data to plan routes around jammed traffic.

In North Dakota, all interstate ramps have similar cameras, Kline said, and many are used in Fargo.

As part of the improvements, signals will eventually be under one control instead of under city and MnDOT control as it operates now.

“It will give us much better access to much better information so we can make adjustments to how the signals operate,” said Bob Zimmerman, city engineer.

For the average driver, this means tweaking the signals to allow fewer stops for red lights when an intersection is not busy.

In a letter written to The Forum, Mayor Mark Voxland said the new signals will also eventually enhance the city’s railroad crossing system.

“That work is really a separate effect,” Zimmerman said. Moorhead is working with a national consulting firm that will submit a report and recommendations to improve the flow of traffic around the railroad crossings next month.

MetroCOG also plans to present proposals to the Moorhead City Council in March to help improve downtown traffic.

Kline said MetroCOG is not considering reconstruction of Moorhead roads, but ways to make access easier for motorists and pedestrians.

MetroCOG recently began working on a regional plan that will examine the Main Avenue corridor from West Fargo to the intersection of U.S. Highway 10 and Highway 330 in Minnesota.

“We’re just starting the process now of putting together a new regional strategy,” Kline said. “We hope to have that completed if not by the end of this year, around the first of 2013.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530