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Helmut Schmidt, Published July 18 2012

Best routes to get past construction zones to Downtown Street Fair

FARGO – Drivers in the Northland know there’s two seasons: winter and road construction.

Unfortunately, it appears this year’s Fargo Downtown Street Fair has been caught in a blizzard of construction.

Scheduled roadwork, emergency repairs for broken water mains, and railroad crossing rehabs in and around the city’s old downtown have, particularly during rush hours, at times turned the roads into a rat’s maze.

“It’s an ugly one, because everything came together in the last two weeks and it seems like everything is closed,” Fargo Traffic Operations Engineer Jonathan Atkins said Wednesday.

“With the Street Fair, it’s going to create headaches,” he said.

Three areas with troubles:

• 10th Street South just south of Main Avenue near the Cass County Courthouse. This popular entry into downtown will be closed for construction on a skyway today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., County Administrator Keith Berndt said.

• Fourth Street North railroad crossing. Closed for upgrades.

• Seventh Avenue North. Three projects – the Interstate 29 overpass reconstruction, a railroad crossing upgrade west of University Drive and sewer repairs – are gumming up traffic.

“That might be a great route to avoid,” Atkins said.

Despite a lot of small construction projects ongoing, Atkins said many of the main routes into downtown will be clear for Street Fair lovers.

To avoid getting thrown for a loop while getting to Fargo’s loop, Atkins offers some suggestions:

• Take Fourth Street from south Fargo into downtown. It also puts you close to the Civic Center parking lot, which offers plenty of space for the family truckster just three blocks east of Broadway and all the food and frivolity.

Take South University Drive north to 13th Avenue South. Then head east to Fourth Street South, and point your auto north again.

• Main Avenue will be clear, Atkins said. You can take Eighth Street North to get into the west side of downtown, where there are several areas of four-hour parking for people who don’t like to move their cars every 90 minutes.

• 19th Avenue North will be clear.

• 12th Avenue North will be clear from I-29 to North University Drive.

• North University Drive will be largely open heading south into the downtown area, except for a section used as a detour for a 10th Street North project.

• The bridges from Moorhead will also be open, Atkins said, giving Minnesotans good access to the Cholesterol Fest.

Here’s a rundown by the Fargo Engineering Department on street projects to look out for in or near the downtown area:

• BNSF Railway has closed the railroad crossings downtown at Fourth Street North and just northwest of downtown at Seventh Avenue North to replace rails and perform maintenance.

Fourth Street North will be detoured on Second Street North via Fourth Avenue and Sixth Avenue.

Seventh Avenue North will be detoured via Eighth Street/Dakota Drive via 14th and 17th streets. The project is expected to last through Friday.

• Seventh Avenue North between 20th and 21st streets will be closed for sewer repairs and detoured on Fifth Avenue by 20th and 21st streets.

• A seal coat project is finishing up on Second Street North between First and Sixth avenues, Atkins said. Traffic will be routed through the work zone, and drivers are urged to use caution.

• Oak Street North from Eighth to 11th avenues has been closed for a mill and overlay project. Oak Street will be detoured on First Street via Seventh and 11th avenues.

• A water main and pavement rehabilitation project will close Fourth Avenue North between Roberts Street and Ninth Street into late October.

• First Avenue South from 10th Street to University Drive is still being rebuilt.

• Fifth Avenue South from Seventh to 10th Street is also being rebuilt.

Other projects that could affect how you get to and from downtown Fargo.

• 10th Street North reconstruction project.

Northbound 10th Street North traffic is detoured west at 12th Avenue to University Drive, where the southbound one-way has been converted to head-to-head two-way traffic from 12th to 17th avenues.

The blocks of 10th Street North between 13th and 17th avenues are closed to through traffic, but open to local residential traffic.

• From Fifth Street East in West Fargo to 45th Street West in Fargo, the North Dakota Department of Transportation has ripped up Main Avenue for major reconstruction.

While it’s far from downtown Fargo, people living west of Fargo would do well to avoid this route into town.

The westernmost stretches of that work appear near completion, but heading east, the work gets more intense.

Unless you live in that area, avoid it. Of course, if you like slow-moving single-lane traffic, winding through dusty, hot and bumpy heavy construction zones, then by all means, don’t let us stop you.

If you can make it through all that and still keep a sense of humor, you deserve a deep-fried candy bar.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583