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Erik Burgess, Published July 07 2012

Two-way conversion has $10 million price tag

FARGO – Rebuilding and converting downtown’s major one-ways here into two-ways now has a timeline and a price tag, the city engineer said Friday.

Turning NP and First avenues to two-way streets, rebuilding crumbling brickwork and replacing aging infrastructure could begin as early as next year, Jeremy Gorden said. The project’s price tag is an estimated $5 million for each avenue.

The City Commission voted 4-1 last fall to approve the conversion from one-ways to two-ways, and now budgetary and design plans are beginning to take shape.

“They’re aware what’s coming, and I assume they’ll be positive,” Gorden said of the city commission, which still needs to approve the project’s budget and timeline plans later this month. “It’s time to reconstruct everything.”

The project will be funded through a majority of sources, primarily infrastructure sales tax funds and special assessments, Gorden said.

City Commissioner Mike Williams, who voted to approve the project last fall, said rebuilding the infrastructure is a must.

“That’s the oldest infrastructure that we have in town,” he said. “Those roads and the underground need to be replaced.”

The proposal recommends that the streets be rebuilt and converted on a three-year plan, Gorden said.

NP Avenue will be rebuilt from Broadway to University Drive starting in 2013. At the same time, both NP and First avenues will be converted to two-way streets, in a “two-plus-one” model. Each avenue would have two lanes in the current direction – westbound for First Avenue, eastbound for NP – and one lane in the opposite direction, as well as a bicycle lane.

Gorden said First Avenue construction would begin in 2014 under the current plan, but would have to be briefly returned to a one way in 2013 to provide a detour for the NP construction.

In 2015, the final year of the plan, work would be done on both avenues from Broadway to Second Street. Gorden said this is being done last because it may involve diversion-related improvements such as floodwalls.

The city could put the project out to bid as early as this winter, Gorden said.

During this work, the city will replace the decorative brick patterns at downtown intersections with Broadway, Gorden said.

The crumbling, purple-red brick was installed in 2002, but the wrong type of brick was used and City Planner Bob Stein said he’s been trying to get it replaced for some time.

“They’re almost dissolving,” Stein said. “They aren’t a pavement-made brick. They’re a detail brick. We use them on the sidewalk as well, and they’re fine there. They just can’t stand up to the street traffic.”

Gorden said the bricks aren’t hazardous to drivers, but they will be replaced.

The decision to convert NP and First avenues to two-way streets came at the end of a corridor study that began in 2009 and cost $275,000.

Part of the study sought out the opinion of businesses along both corridors. Stein said he surveyed all property owners and renters along both corridors, and found that 80 percent of those who responded to his survey favored the project or had no preference.

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