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Erik Burgess, Published May 08 2013

Fargo commissioners support 25th Street widening

FARGO – A majority of city commissioners here say they support a $10.6 million project to widen 25th Street South, which could begin next summer.

A proposal to widen the corridor to six lanes between 17th and 23rd avenues will be considered by the commission Monday.

City engineering staff briefed commissioners on the project Wednesday morning, saying the corridor is unsafe and congested.

With increased traffic volumes expected over the next 20 years, engineers say it’s likely to get worse.

“We have to make improvements,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said after the briefing. “Waiting for a long period of time doesn’t resolve the problems. It just extends the problems.”

Transportation engineer Jeremy Gorden recommended widening 25th Street to six lanes with a raised median and adding a more efficient on-ramp to eastbound Interstate 94.

The widening would move the road closer to the Prairiewood Crossing neighborhood, so a decorative fence would be installed between the neighborhood and 25th Street. Crews would widen the Interstate 94 overpass bridge by 53 feet.

If the commission approves the project, another public hearing would be scheduled in June. Construction would begin next summer, with federal funds covering 80 percent of the bill, Gorden said. The 20 percent local share could include special assessments, he said.

Commissioner Mike Williams said he supports widening 25th Street as long as trees near the road can be salvaged and pedestrians don’t have to walk a mile just to cross 25th.

Gorden said staff is working to mitigate those negative impacts.

The intersection at 25th Street South and 17th Avenue would only need to be widened 10 feet to add one more lane because it already has five lanes. A northbound right-turn lane would be converted into a through lane.

The proposed raised median will also provide a “refuge” for pedestrians, Gorden said.

The recommended plan includes adding an eastbound I-94 on-ramp from 25th Street. Drivers heading north on 25th Street now have to turn left, or west, in order to get eastbound I-94.

The new on-ramp would allow northbound traffic on 25th Street to enter I-94 by turning right just north of Doolittles Woodfire Grill.

Gorden said the city has had an easement on that land north of Doolittles since 2000, and the restaurant has supported the project.

“We’ve known for a while that we’ve wanted that ramp because, today, it’s an odd configuration,” he said.

The recommended plan also calls for adding another left turn lane to the westbound I-94 off-ramp at 25th Street.

Three other options were presented to commissioners Wednesday. One is to widen the road but not install a new I-94 ramp. A second is to widen the road and install an on-ramp but not add another left turn lane to the westbound off-ramp. A third option is to do nothing.

City Commissioner Brad Wimmer said the south end of the city is going to keep growing, and city leaders need to be ready for that.

“For the better good of the traffic flow and getting people from A to B, I think it’ll be a good project,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Melissa Sobolik were not at the briefing and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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