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Dave Olson, Published January 21 2013

Fargo set to explore tunnel idea for Second Street North

FARGO – Fargo’s flood protection efforts may be heading underground.

On Monday night, city commissioners approved spending $88,000 to study the possibility of creating a tunnel for a section of Second Street North between First Avenue and Fourth Avenue.

A tunnel would be an alternative option to a floodwall plan the city unveiled last fall as part of a project proposed for the downtown area.

The initial proposal called for shifting Second Street North near City Hall a bit to the west to allow for the construction of floodwalls.

In addition, the plan anticipated the need to buy out some private property, including the Sidestreet Grille and Pub.

After the floodwall plan was introduced, the city’s engineering department received feedback from the public as well as from city commissioners, who asked that alternative options be developed, said April Walker, the city engineer.

She said the notion of a tunnel-like structure for Second Street was a part of several riverfront concepts recently submitted to the city by North Dakota State University landscape and architecture students.

Walker said the idea would be to lower the level of Second Street slightly and create a mound of earth above it that could provide space for a variety of uses.

“This scope of work that’s in front of you does not contemplate what those economic development features might be,” Walker told commissioners, adding: “It’s simply looking at the tunnel and the flood control aspects to see if they’re feasible, so that they would leave the opportunity for that further development later on.”

She said a tunnel might mean the shift in Second Street would be less dramatic than it would need to be for a floodwall and therefore there might be less need to acquire private property, but she said that won’t be known until the study is completed sometime in mid-June

The study will also determine whether a tunnel would be financially viable, she said.

The cost for a floodwall for the Second Street area was estimated at $24 million when the initial plan was introduced last fall.

Commissioner Mike Williams said a tunnel study was necessary to determine what might be possible for riverfront development.

“This really goes along with all of our downtown flood work plans,” Williams said.

“I think it (the $88,000) would be money well spent,” he added.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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