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Published April 24 2012

West Fargo residents cite Ninth Street safety concerns

WEST FARGO – Some residents north of Interstate 94 worry traffic safety on Ninth Street is taking a backseat to more immediate concerns of accommodating future growth off Veterans Boulevard.

Ninth Street and Veterans Boulevard meet at the Interstate 94 interchange in West Fargo. Ninth Street runs north of the interstate, while Veterans Boulevard runs south.

Within a few years, officials will widen parts of Veterans Boulevard to accommodate traffic demands for new homes, schools, stores and a regional medical center there.

Veterans Boulevard south to 40th Avenue is expected to see traffic volumes as high as 31,000 vehicles per day within about 20 years, more than triple what it sees today.

Traffic on Ninth Street just north of I-94 is also projected to at least double by 2035 – to potentially 24,700 vehicles per day – yet some improvements aren’t recommended to take place for 10 years.

Residents and businesses near 19th Avenue East and Beaton Drive, which intersect with Ninth Street just north of the interchange, say safety improvements are needed now, not later.

“You’re building infrastructure so greatly south of the interstate and only so-so north of it,” said Mike Bernath, president of the Villas at Charleswood Association.

Bernath represents a group of residential associations and businesses that want West Fargo leaders to install a traffic signal at the 19th Avenue intersection.

The issue arose Tuesday night during a public hearing on the draft study of the Ninth Street/Veterans Boulevard corridor.

The study by the Metropolitan Council of Governments lays out short- and long-term plans to widen the thoroughfare, add turn lanes and install traffic signals to help motorists travel more efficiently and safely.

A traffic signal and designated turn lanes are recommended at 19th Avenue, but residents say the intersection is busy enough already to warrant the $300,000 project.

“There’s what the numbers tell you and then there’s common sense,” Bernath said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, officials explained the 19th Avenue intersection falls just short of qualifying for a traffic signal.

But West Fargo Assistant Public Works Director Chris Brungardt said that could easily change with unanticipated impacts from the nearby developments south of I-94.

“We’re probably going to get there a lot quicker than what we’re projecting,” Brungardt said. “That area is busting at the seams.”

A traffic signal already operates two blocks north at 17th Avenue East near Cheney Middle School.

Bernath provided The Forum with a letter that makes a formal request to West Fargo engineer Kevin Bucholz and City Administrator Jim Brownlee.

It’s signed by Bernath and representatives of Evergreen Estates, FM Ambulance, the Charleswood subdivision, Heritage Homes, Titan Machinery and Bobcat Co.

“We feel it is the time for the city to be proactive rather than reactive and install a traffic signal before someone is hurt or killed,” the letter reads. “Traffic gets to be more every day and the speeding only gets worse. Address it now, not later.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541