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Erik Burgess, Published March 27 2013

F-M area roads to see millions of dollars in construction this summer

FARGO – Break out the orange cones and dust off the hardhats. Construction season is approaching, and officials have big plans for the region.

Interstate 94 and Main Avenue in downtown Moorhead will both get facelifts, as departments of transportation from both states plan to spend millions of dollars improving roads in Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding areas.

A much-anticipated $4.8 million MnDOT repair of Main Avenue in Moorhead from the Red River to Eighth Street is scheduled to run from May 20 through September. The project was set to begin last summer but delayed because officials said the sole bid of $6.5 million was too high.

The North Dakota DOT hopes to start an extensive I-94 fix-up on June 1, patching and replacing broken concrete from Veterans Boulevard in West Fargo all the way to the Red River.

“There’ll be some significant traffic impact from this project,” said Kevin Gorder, assistant district engineer for NDDOT in Fargo.

Throughout the construction season, much of Minnesota lakes country and I-94 will be affected by closed lanes and detours, but MnDOT officials called for patience in a news conference Wednesday.

“We just ask the traveling public to slow down and pay attention,” said Trudy Kordosky, a MnDOT project engineer.

I-94 gets a tune-up

The last time NDDOT patched up I-94 in Fargo was in 2003, Gorder said.

The estimated $2 million to $3 million project this year should take three months to complete. Federal dollars will cover 90 percent of the tab, and the state will pick up the rest, Gorder said. Traffic on I-94 in each direction will be reduced by one lane.

The newest part of I-94 here is 20 years old, Gorder said, but it would take a “significant” investment to completely redo the road. Gorder said they try to patch it every five to 10 years.

Preventive maintenance is also scheduled for the Interstate 29 and I-94 interchange, and the blue I-94 pedestrian bridge will be repainted, Gorder said.

Freshly laid concrete needs two days to settle, Gorder said, so it may appear that no work is being done even though lanes remain closed.

“It’s going to frustrate some people that drive by,” he said. “But it’s really the concrete gaining strength so it can carry the stress.”

Around 67,000 vehicles travel between Moorhead and Fargo on I-94 every day, Gorder said.

Many parts of I-94 in Minnesota are also scheduled for a fix-up.

MnDOT plans to resurface about nine miles of eastbound I-94 from Downer to Barnesville, which will cost an estimated $10 million, reducing traffic to one lane in each direction from June to October.

Seven miles of high-tension cable barriers along the interstate will be installed near Moorhead this summer, with 10 miles going up near Alexandria. Cable barriers are placed in the median to keep vehicles from crossing into oncoming traffic. The $2.3 million project will run May through June.

Fourteen miles of cable barriers are planned near Fergus Falls, at an estimated cost of $2 million. That project is scheduled from August to September.

For those traveling to the Twin Cities, both directions of I-94 between Clearwater and St. Cloud will be down to one lane beginning April 1 until about the end of July. All lanes will be open over the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays.

MnDOT expects traffic backups up to 20 miles during peak travel times along that stretch.

Other MnDOT projects

There are 31 planned projects totaling $75 million this summer in MnDOT’s District 4, which is made of 12 west central Minnesota counties, including Clay, Becker and Wilkin.

MnDOT typically spends only $35 million to $50 million per year in District 4 projects, District Engineer Jody Martinson said.

“It is a pretty significant jump for projects in our area (this year),” she said. “We’re going to be very busy.”

The $4.8 million Moorhead project includes replacing six traffic signals – four of them downtown – and improving signal timing at railroad crossings. Pedestrian crossings along Highways 75 and 10 will also be improved to comply with the American with Disabilities Act.

Jesse Miller, a MnDOT project engineer, said to expect lane closures in downtown Moorhead similar to last summer. “We’re going to try to impact it as least we can, but we gotta get in there and get the work done,” he said.

Starting in May, 8 miles of westbound Highway 10 is scheduled to be resurfaced from Detroit Lakes to Boyer Lake at a cost of $8.1 million. A $2.3 million project near Hawley in July will add a traffic signal to the junction of Clay County roads 31 and 33.

In August, a $3.5 million project will resurface 12 miles of Highway 75 from Clay County Road 12 south of Moorhead to the Wilkin County line.

Martinson said some of the projects are still awaiting bids, but she doesn’t anticipate any problems finding firms to complete the ambitious schedule.

She also said a potential spring flood on the Red River will be a “key factor” in scheduling work.

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