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Erik Burgess, Published June 22 2012

Businesses brace for second round on Main Avenue

MOORHEAD – Construction season might come to an early end on Main Avenue here, but some local businesses are wishing it had stayed a while longer.

“We’d like it to be here. We’d like it to be construction season,” said Marje Aakre, secretary-treasurer of Rigels Appliances on the corner of Main Avenue and Sixth Street.

Moorhead Public Service is completing work on replacing a water main beneath the main strip, but a proposed Minnesota Department of Transportation project – including repaving Main Avenue and replacing and upgrading traffic signals – has been put off until next spring due to a lack of competitive bids for the project, MnDOT officials said Wednesday.

Many business owners in the area are frustrated and said they would like the project finished in one shot.

“I would’ve preferred to get it all done right now, so that it’s not two years of having construction,” said Mandy Peterson, co-owner of Ace Hardware on Main Avenue and Sixth Street. “Everybody was kind of looking forward to a new road and new stop lights.”

But Peterson, along with many business owners, said they received few customer complaints and that the detour has been easy enough to navigate.

One business owner did have trouble with the detour routes. Rory Sandvig, who has owned Hockey Zone Minnesota between Fourth and Fifth streets for six years, said his business was left with only one point of entry – Fifth Street, a one-way street.

“For the customers, it’s a pain to get into,” he said. “The only way in for a whole month – more than a month – was a one-way. And the only way out was a one-way.”

Sandvig said his business has declined slightly the past couple of months.

Diane DeLeon, who has co-owned the Moorhead Dairy Queen on Eighth Street with her husband, Troy, since 1995, said businesses need to find ways to work through the construction. Her restaurant has had “cone zone” specialties during construction season in the past. She said luckily during hot summer months, customers usually make the trip to buy ice cream.

“They haven’t even complained about the construction,” she said.

Sandvig and Aakre said they voiced some concern to city officials, especially concerning their frustrations over poor traffic signal timing. Mayor Mark Voxland said he has heard similar complaints from a few residents, but they were generally understanding.

Voxland said the city is in the “beginning stages” of working with an engineering firm and with the state of Minnesota to adjust the traffic control downtown. He said work would be done on this over the next year.

MnDOT officials said the $3.8 million project will be bid out again in August or September and work will likely begin next spring.

“It’s kind of a mixed blessing, I think,” DeLeon said. “We know that it’ll be back to haunt us next year.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518