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Erik Burgess, Published May 13 2013

Fargo commission approves 25th Street widening

FARGO – Despite some neighborhood protest, city commissioners here voted unanimously Monday night to push forward with plans to widen a portion of 25th Street South.

The proposed $10.6 million project would widen the corridor between 17th and 23rd avenues to six lanes with a raised median. It’s meant to address high traffic volumes and accident-prone intersections, problems that will only keep mounting as the city continues to grow, said transportation engineer Jeremy Gorden.

The project, which still needs to be approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, would also bring 25th Street about eight to 10 feet closer to the Prairiewood Crossing neighborhood.

A handful of residents from that neighborhood told the commission Monday night that unlike the widening of University Drive and 45th Street, this project affects a residential area.

“We worry about the exhaust. We worry about the noise,” said Connie Nelson, who has lived in Prairiewood Crossing since 1990.

With its vote Monday, the commission did approve installing a $60,000 decorative fence between the neighborhood and 25th Street, but Gorden said that will do little to buffer the noise.

“The alternative would be a 13-foot concrete wall, which would run around $400,000,” he said.

Commissioners agreed that other options need to be looked into, like planting more trees between the homes and 25th Street.

Nelson cited other areas of town where trees have been used to block the line of sight between a residential area and a high traffic road.

Gorden said he has met with the residents of the neighborhood numerous times, but he still recommended that commissioners push forward with the widening project, especially considering the heavy congestion at 17th Avenue South and 25th Street.

“That will fail if we don’t do anything,” he said.

The project will also see a new eastbound Interstate 94 on-ramp installed just north of Doolittles Woodfire Grill.

Residents reminded commissioners Monday that this will be the third time the corridor has been redone in about the past two decades.

Mayor Dennis Walaker admitted that “a lot of mistakes were made” with interstate planning there, but he said something has to be done.

“This is going to get a lot worse,” he said. “It’s going to get extremely worse year by year by year as we continue to develop to the south.”

Before voting, Walaker told the Prairiewood Crossing residents to keep in contact with Gorden so the city could continue to work through their concerns.

“You’ve got his phone number,” Walaker said.

Gorden said another public hearing for the project will be scheduled sometime in June, and construction could start next summer.

Eighty percent of the costs will be covered by federal dollars and 20 percent will be local, Gorden said.

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