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Erik Burgess, Published July 08 2012

Moorhead I-94 ramps to be built

MOORHEAD – Residents and businesses here won’t have to wait much longer.

New Interstate 94 ramps – at the now infamous site of the dismantled interchange off southeast Main Avenue – will be built starting in September, a Minnesota Department of Transportation official said Thursday.

“We’re good to go on that one. That one’s definitely going to happen,” said Dana Hanson, public affairs coordinator for MnDOT. Hanson said the project will take about six weeks to complete.

The news will be cause of joy for business owners in the area of the interchange, said Chuck Chadwick, executive director of the Moorhead Business Association.

“There’s at least 100 businesses that will celebrate,” Chadwick said. “It is just essential to have those (ramps) open.”

The new partial interchange will consist of a westbound on-ramp and an eastbound off-ramp from I-94 to southeast Main Avenue.

The $3 million project will be paid for entirely by the city, with initial proposals suggesting 20 percent ($640,000) be paid with special assessments, but City Manager Mike Redlinger said special assessment hearings will have to be held after construction is finished.

The interchange headaches started in 2010 when a new interchange was built at 34th Street and southeast Main Avenue. At the time, Moorhead officials said federal officials insisted the old ramps be closed because two interchanges cannot be operating within a mile of each other.

The decision to close the old ramps received stark criticism from the business community. Chadwick said access to the southern part of the industrial park was made more difficult by the elimination of the old interchange.

The removal of the old ramps also caused unsafe detours for semi-trailer traffic, Chadwick said at the time. He called it a “public safety” issue.

“We now have semis crossing railroad tracks and going through residential districts, which is totally unacceptable,” he said in late 2011.

City leaders and the business community spent much of 2011 attempting to convince federal officials it would be safe and beneficial to allow some ramps in the old location to be reconditioned.

The Federal Highway Administration gave the approval to build new ramps at the site of the old interchange in late 2011.

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