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Wendy Reuer, Published April 08 2013

Work to convert avenues to two-ways begins in June

FARGO – Work will begin in June to convert NP and First avenues to two-way streets here.

Construction crews will start changing signs and signal lights and replacing brick work on NP Avenue from University to Second Street, but they will have a strict deadline to finish the work just one week before Fargo’s Downtown Street Fair in July.

The 2013 Downtown Street Fair is scheduled to begin July 18. During that time, NP Avenue will be closed off and traffic will be detoured to First Avenue between Fifth and Roberts streets.

City officials said Monday night at an informational meeting that the contractor will face a high penalty if work is not completed on time.

“We have the most substantial penalty we’ve ever had on a project,” said Project Engineer Kristy Schmidt.

Schmidt did not specify what the penalty would be.

In June, Roberts Street will also be blocked off so traffic will no longer be allowed to take a left from NP Avenue, said Jeremy Gorden traffic engineer.

Roberts Street will eventually be realigned to Eighth Street, Gorden said.

After the street fair, crews will begin work to convert First Avenue. The three lanes will allow for two lanes of westbound traffic and one lane of eastbound traffic.

NP Avenue will have two lanes for eastbound travel and one lane for westbound travel, Gorden said.

Traffic on the two streets will be operating in two directions by the end of the summer. The estimated $10 million project will continue next year when the city plans to reconstruct the roads.

“(This year) it’s basically a signage and signal project,” Gorden said. “It does give us an opportunity to see how this will work before we completely tear up the streets.”

In 2014, the city plans to replace the streets, sidewalks and underground infrastructure on NP Avenue between Broadway and University.

In 2015, the city will do the same for First Avenue.

“Our infrastructure downtown is upwards of 100 years old,” Schmidt said.

The decision to convert NP and First avenues to two-way streets came at the end of a corridor study that began in 2009 and cost $275,000.

Planners had hoped to include bike lanes on the newly converted streets, but Schmidt said Monday full bike lanes will not be an option.

“We don’t have enough right-of-way width to make two-lane bike lanes in each direction,” she said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530