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Published September 09 2013

Forum editorial: Attend MetroCOG summits

MetroCOG summits today and Wednesday in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo might seem to be the stuff that causes eyes to glaze over. But the topic – the future of the metro’s transportation system – is anything but dull. And it’s important. As the urban area and its environs grow, planning for more traffic will be a vital component in the cities’ successful management.

There’s little doubt population growth will continue at a steady but not overwhelming rate. Road planners, such as the people at MetroCOG, know that in order to address needs for the next 30 years, plans must be developed now. That’s what the meetings are about.

With a glitch here and there, transportation planners in the metro have been ahead of the traffic growth curve. Most traffic problems are more related to big events (football, concerts) in the city rather than daily road capacity.

For more than a decade, the routine condition during road construction season has been “cone zones.” The inconvenience of detours and plugged one-lane bypasses is necessary because the results have been good. Think about the changes in major thoroughfares: Main Avenue in Fargo and West Fargo; 45th Street from Main Avenue to 52nd Avenue South; 13th Avenue interchange redesign and lane additions near West Acres; South University Drive; additional lanes on interstate highways through the city; expansion of County 17 from West Fargo to Horace; the restored Interstate 94 interchange on the east side of Moorhead; and many more large and small projects.

Overall, traffic in the metro moves well because road planners and builders have kept slightly ahead of traffic growth. There are needs unmet, including at least one new bridge across the Red River, and at least one additional interchange on I-94 in West Fargo. Other obvious mistakes – an inadequate Fargo 12th Avenue bridge, Moorhead’s seemingly intractable problem with downtown rail crossings, and the failure to widen 13th Avenue South from University Drive to the river – can be fixed in a new urban transportation plan.

The summits this week are opportunities for residents to be part of the planning process. The drivers who negotiate streets and avenues every day have a stake in the metro’s transportation future. Their constructive participation can help planners get it right.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.