Published April 23 2012
Growth fuels Veterans Boulevard plans
Officials are already planning to expand the 3-year-old roadway south of Interstate 94 in order to meet the demands of explosive growth in southern areas of Fargo and West Fargo.
A new transit study projects that traffic flows on Veterans Boulevard should at least triple by 2035 and could reach nearly 31,000 vehicles per day at the busiest stretch.
That amount of traffic would easily rival, if not outright surpass, traffic volumes seen today on Fargo’s main thoroughfares like University Drive, 13th Avenue South and 25th Street.
Expanding Veterans Boulevard to accommodate such growth could cost $40 million in necessary construction over the coming decades.
Last summer, consultants for the F-M Metro Council of Governments added Veterans Boulevard to their comprehensive study of the Ninth Street corridor, which has long been one of West Fargo’s busiest arterials.
Ninth Street and Veterans Boulevard are linked by the I-94 interchange. Ninth Street is north of I-94, while Veterans Boulevard runs south.
With new schools, a major medical center, shopping centers and residential subdivisions planned off Veterans Boulevard, transit officials wanted to reassess the expected growth and its impact on traffic patterns as part of their outlook for the corridor that borders Fargo’s west and West Fargo’s east in some parts.
In all, MetroCOG officials analyzed the eight-mile stretch between Cass County Highway 20 on the north and 40th Avenue South, with particular emphasis on the southern end, where growth is the greatest.
Area residents are invited to an open house tonight to hear more about the draft study and plans transit officials have.
The 80-page report lays out recommendations for how the corridor should look in the future in order to best accommodate the projected traffic demands.
Fargo and West Fargo would both have to acquire more right-of-way in order to expand Ninth Street and Veterans Boulevard.
Transit officials predict no properties would be impacted; however some businesses might need to relocate their signs.
Starting from the south end of the corridor, here’s what the study recommends for Veterans Boulevard and Ninth Street East:
- Veterans Boulevard from 32nd to 40th avenues south currently sees about 5,000 vehicles per day, but that’s expected to more than triple – to 16,400 vehicles per day – by 2035.
The spike in traffic will be due in large part to the construction of West Fargo’s second high school and second middle school.
The shared campus will be at the site of what’s currently West Fargo’s Sheyenne Ninth Grade Center off 40th Avenue.
Metro transit officials recommend that Veterans Boulevard be widened from its two-lane state here into four lanes, with possible dividers.
A multi-lane roundabout at the 40th Avenue intersection is one option to control traffic flows near the future schools. However, that’s not favorable based on public input and advice from local transit leaders.
Veterans Boulevard already has three roundabouts at the intersections with 44th, 48th and 51st avenues south.
- Veterans Boulevard from the I-94 interchange to 32nd Avenue South handles about 8,200 vehicles per day.
By 2035, that could nearly quadruple to 30,800 vehicles, about the same amount of traffic seen at University Drive near the I-94 interchange in Fargo.
The opening of the I-94 interchange in West Fargo two years ago sparked a boom of new development for southern reaches of West Fargo and Fargo along Veterans Boulevard.
On the Fargo side, the Sanford/YMCA Family Wellness Center and the Sanford POWER Center have both opened off 32nd Avenue near Scheels Arena.
Sanford Health has plans for a $360 million medical center off the I-94 interchange.
Meanwhile, on the west side of Veterans Boulevard, what was vacant farmland barely more than a year ago has blossomed into the early stages of The Preserve.
Aside from new residential housing, the 500-acre subdivision will be home to West Fargo’s next elementary school, a future Holy Cross Catholic school and North Dakota’s first CostCo store.
Veterans Boulevard is a four-lane divided highway from the I-94 interchange to 32nd Avenue.
But to handle the visitor traffic that will likely be drawn by the new development there, MetroCOG officials recommend the boulevard be widened to a six-lane divided roadway.
In addition, the bridge across I-94 would also need to be widened to six lanes, since the interchange alone might see as many as 39,500 vehicles each day by 2035.
- North of the interstate between 13th Avenue South and I-94, about 12,600 vehicles travel on Ninth Street each day.
That’s expected to double to 24,700 vehicles by 2035.
The current five-lane set-up should suffice for those projected traffic demands, but the roadway will need to be six lanes near the interchange in order to accommodate increased traffic there.
West Fargo’s Cheney Middle School is located off Ninth Street and 17th Avenue South, a few blocks north of the interchange.
- Ninth Street from Seventh to 13th avenues should only see a slight bump in traffic volume in comparison.
The three-lane stretch – which runs past West Fargo High School – carries about 11,000 vehicles each day.
By 2035, that could rise to 12,300 vehicles daily.
Officials recommend Ninth Street be widened to five lanes here, with a possible raised median.
That expansion could help better coordinate traffic coming in and out of the high school.
- Similarly, Seventh Avenue to Main Avenue is also recommended for widening to five lanes.
Ninth Street on this stretch sees 8,500 vehicles each day. That should increase to about 13,000 within the next 23 years.
- From Main Avenue northward, Ninth Street needs only turn-lane adjustments at key intersections, the study states.
The area on Ninth Street from Main Avenue to 12th Avenue North mostly caters to industrial traffic, so there isn’t expected to be a huge increase in daily vehicles.
This stretch of two-lane road sees about 3,200 vehicles each day, and that should rise to nearly 4,100 by 2035.
Planning ahead, transit officials estimate it could cost more than $40 million over the next couple decades to make all the changes necessary for Ninth Street and Veterans Boulevard to handle the expected traffic demands.
Some of that work is already starting this summer with the planned addition of a new traffic signal at 23rd Avenue South, which will help guide traffic near the CostCo store that’s set to open this fall.
In 2013, Fargo and West Fargo are looking to spend nearly $9 million to widen Veterans Boulevard between 32nd and 40th Avenues in preparation for the extra school traffic.
Then, in 2015, the Ninth Street intersection at 12th Avenue North will be upgraded, as part of a city-county effort to reconstruct 12th Avenue between County Road 19 and 45th Street in Fargo.
The Ninth Street intersection there will get new traffic-control devices, potentially a roundabout, the study states.
Officials recommend that more than 10 years from now, Veterans Boulevard should be widened at its most popular stretch south of the interchange, between 32nd Avenue and I-94.
Metro traffic vehicle counts
Here’s a sampling of some of the most commonly traveled areas in Fargo and West Fargo, as of 2010:
- 31,700 vehicles per day: University Drive north of the Interstate 94 interchange in Fargo.
- 28,000 vehicles per day: 13th Avenue South east of 42nd Street in Fargo.
- 27,000 vehicles per day: 25th Street South just north of the I-94 interchange in Fargo.
- 26,800 vehicles per day: Main Avenue east of the Interstate 29 interchange in Fargo.
- 26,000 vehicles per day: 32nd Avenue South west of the I-29 interchange in Fargo.
- 24,200 vehicles per day: 45th Street between 16th Avenue South and I-94 in Fargo.
- 23,000 vehicles per day: University Drive at 32nd Avenue South in Fargo.
- 22,400 vehicles per day: Main Avenue near the Red River in Fargo.
- 19,500 vehicles per day: 19th Avenue North west of University Drive in Fargo.
- 18,300 vehicles per day: University Drive between NP and First avenues North in Fargo.
- 16,100 vehicles per day: 42nd Street South south of 13th Avenue in Fargo.
- 15,800 vehicles per day: Main Avenue west of Center Avenue in West Fargo.
- 13,900 vehicles per day: 13th Avenue South west of 17th Street East in West Fargo.
- 13,800 vehicles per day: Ninth Street East at 13th Avenue South in West Fargo.
- 12,500 vehicles per day: Second Street North near City Hall in Fargo.
- 12,300 vehicles per day: First Avenue North near the Red River in Fargo.
- 12,100 vehicles per day: 10th Street North near NP Avenue in Fargo.
- 12,000 vehicles per day: 52nd Avenue South west of the I-29 interchange in Fargo.
- 11,300 vehicles per day: Sheyenne Street south of the I-94 interchange in West Fargo.
- 10,200 vehicles per day: Fourth Street near Island Park in Fargo.
Source: North Dakota Department of Transportation
If you go
What: Public meeting on Ninth Street / Veterans Boulevard corridor study
When: 5-7 p.m. tonight (Presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.)
Where: Moore Engineering, 925 10th Ave. E. in West Fargo.
Info: Contact MetroCOG at (701) 232-3242 or log on to www.fmmetrocog.org.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541
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