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Helmut Schmidt, Published November 15 2012

Main Avenue plan may bring buyouts from University to 21st

FARGO – As part of a plan to rebuild a two-mile stretch of Main Avenue, the city is studying options that could include buying out many of the businesses on Main Avenue from University Drive to 21st Street.

City commissioners and staff met with Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments planners Thursday to discuss options generated by the Main Avenue Corridor Study, which is looking at ways to rebuild the major road from the Red River to 25th Street.

One of the four separate segments of the overall project would widen Main between University Drive and 21st Street to make it safer, with a turn lane and handicap-accessible sidewalks. That stretch of the road handles 20,000 cars a day and has had 62 accidents in the past two years, MetroCOG planners said.

• The top alternative recommended by MetroCOG for that portion of Main Avenue calls for buying most of the properties on the north side of the road. The

$5.7 million cost includes $4 million for construction and $1.7 million for buying property. (Relocation costs have not been calculated.)

• The plan MetroCOG ranked No. 2 calls for buying property on both the north and south sides of Main. The $10.9 million cost includes $5 million for construction, and

$5.9 million for buying property.

• The plan ranked No. 3 calls for buying properties on the south side of Main. It drew mostly negative comments in public meetings, MetroCOG said. The $9 million cost includes $4.3 million for construction, and $4.7 million for buying property.

• Finally, a $5.2 million plan that provided sidewalks but did little to improve traffic safety drew little support from staffers. Construction costs were $4 million, with $1.2 million for buying property.

Officials didn’t discuss Thursday which specific businesses could be subject to buyouts.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said he wants to know more before moving ahead and further developing any of the plans.

“I think we have to have more study” of who owns the businesses and relocation costs, he said.

Wade Kline, executive director of MetroCOG, urged commissioners to maintain momentum on the Main Avenue project by continuing planning, so it can be “shovel ready” for the time federal funding finally becomes available.

Kline said federal funds won’t be available for the project for at least five years, putting the earliest start at 2017.

The federal government cost share for such projects is 80 percent, with the state picking up 10 percent and local government paying 10 percent, MetroCOG staff said.

The additional cost for replacing of aging sewer and water lines under the street is $1 million a mile, City Engineer Mark Bittner said. Federal money will not cover utilities replacement, Kline said.

Kline said a good goal for the project would be to get one of the two major phases – either from University Drive east to Second Street, or University west to 25th Street – completed by 2020.

The overall plan aims to decrease congestion at intersections and improve traffic flow, while making the corridor safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate.

MetroCOG has already held several public input meetings, including meetings with business owners along the commercial corridor.

The planning agency will continue to study the corridor project and will hold additional public meetings before making final recommendations to the city.

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