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Dave Olson, Published June 08 2013

Most Fargo downtown businesses welcome one-way street conversions

FARGO - As an owner of a business on Fargo’s First Avenue North, Matt Gatzke views the avenue’s conversion from a one-way to a two-way in, well, two ways.

“It kind of sounds good overall: You get a little more traffic and you get to see it (the store) from both ways,” said Gatzke, owner of This Skate & Snow, as he watched cars pass his place in both directions Saturday.

“But now, it feels skinnier,” Gatzke said, referring to the avenue that has orange barrels delineating two westbound lanes from a single eastbound lane.

Gatzke said the barriers will likely go away once people get the message that what has been a one-way since 1957 is now sporting two-way traffic.

But, he said, the changeover, which began about a week ago and is being accomplished in stages, seems to have altered the dynamic for trucks that must double-park to make deliveries, as some businesses in that area have no alleys that can serve that purpose.

“When UPS drops stuff off, when the beer trucks stop at the bars, there’s almost nowhere for those guys to park,” Gatzke said.

According to Gatzke, First Avenue North could be very congested as a one-way and he said congestion will likely worsen now that it’s a two-way street.

Still, he added, “I think it might work out.”

Troy Gion, shift supervisor at the Wasabi Sushi and Asian Grill and attached Drunken Noodle restaurants on NP Avenue, offered a similar assessment.

“It’s just something to get used to,” Gion said of the forest of traffic barriers on NP Avenue, which like First Avenue is transitioning from a one-way into a two-way.

Gion said things seem a bit slower since the change began, but he added that isn’t unusual for the summer.

“As time goes by, it’s going to be just fine,” Gion said.

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

As part of the study, all property owners and renters along both corridors were surveyed. Of those who responded, 80 percent favored the project or had no preference.

As drivers learn to deal with the change, they must also contend with street work happening downtown this summer.

That includes a project at the intersection of Broadway and NP Avenue, just outside the Old Broadway.

The work will keep cars out of the intersection and detour foot traffic for several more weeks.

Emilie Fischer, a manager at the Old Broadway, said it is difficult to know how the changes will affect business.

“Who knows how people will react to it?” she said. “After a couple months, I think people will get used to it.”

In the short term, Fischer said the street work may make it harder for people to find the restaurant and night club.

“We’ve had multiple phone calls saying, ‘Can we even get to you guys?’ ”

The answer to that question is yes, Fischer said, adding it helps that the Old Broadway has its own parking lot.

“I can always say we have a parking lot in the back that’s open to the public after 5 o’clock,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555