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Erik Burgess, Published May 28 2013

Downtowns both hit by construction this summer

FARGO – Construction season is here, and both Fargo and Moorhead have major plans to bust out the orange cones downtown.

Crews in Fargo will work on turning two major avenues from one-ways into two-ways. In Moorhead, Main Avenue will get a much-anticipated face-lift.

In Fargo, the transformation of NP Avenue and First Avenue North from one-ways into two-ways has already begun. Traffic will be flowing in two directions by the end of the summer.

On First Avenue North, 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.

Phase one of the project is installing new traffic signals. Some of the new signals are already up, and two lanes of traffic will remain open while crews finish that work.

Adding new traffic signals is about 50 percent complete, and that work will continue as intersections are closed. Signal installation requires some lane closures, Transportation Engineer Jeremy Gorden said.

Phase two of the project begins Monday. The intersection of NP Avenue and Broadway will be closed for up to 30 days for minor repairs and brick work. Traffic will be detoured to First Avenue North, Gorden said. Sidewalks will remain open.

That work is scheduled to be wrapped up about a week before the 2013 Downtown Street Fair on July 18.

Phase three of the project – fixing up the intersection of Broadway and First Avenue North – will begin tentatively on July 22 or 23, Gorden said. Traffic will be detoured from First Avenue to NP, which will have been permanently converted to a two-way at that time.

The Broadway and First Avenue North intersection will also close for up to 30 days during that phase.

Gorden said the project will also widen outside lanes to allow more room for bicycles.

The conversion from one-days to two-ways will improve traffic flow at peak hours and lessen confusion for visitors traveling through Fargo, Gorden said.

Next year, crews will resurface and replace 100-year-old infrastructure along NP Avenue between Broadway and University. In 2015, the city will do the same for First Avenue.

The total cost for the project is $10 million.

Moorhead’s project

Work began in Moorhead on Tuesday to replace six aging traffic signals – four on Main Avenue downtown, one at Center Avenue and 14th Street and another at Center Avenue and Highway 75.

It’s part of a larger $4.8 million Minnesota Department of Transportation project scheduled to be complete by late September.

Lane closures will be necessary for much of the work, but crews are trying to do as much as they can with only one lane closed, said MnDOT project engineer Jesse Miller.

Crews on Tuesday began replacing the signal at Main Avenue and Sixth Street, and traffic has been reduced to one lane in each direction between Fifth and Seventh streets.

Traffic on Sixth Street will use temporary stop signs and won’t be able to turn left in the area where crews are working, according to MnDOT’s website.

Main Avenue resurfacing from the Veterans Memorial Bridge to Eighth Street won’t begin until mid- or late summer after all the signals are replaced, Miller said.

He said the resurfacing work should only take a “couple days” once started.

Crews are also making pedestrian crossing improvements and setting up an underground fiber optic network to connect the signals, Miller said.

That work is being done along two large stretches: on Highway 10, from Eighth Street to 34th Street, and on Eighth Street from Center Avenue to 40th Avenue South, according to MnDOT plans.

Some fiber optic cables will also be installed downtown along Main and Center avenues and on 14th Street South from Center Avenue to Sixth Avenue South.

A new pedestrian crosswalk signal will also be installed near Concordia College, on Eighth Street and 10th Avenue South.

Miller said MnDOT is also working with Moorhead officials to improve signal timing at railroad crossings. Poorly timed traffic signals downtown have been a common complaint from residents, city officials have said.

The Moorhead project was set to begin last summer, but MnDOT delayed it because officials said the sole bid of $6.5 million was too high.

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