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Erik Burgess, Published September 10 2013

City studies another major change to NP Avenue in downtown Fargo

FARGO – Another major change may be coming to NP Avenue, the longtime downtown one-way corridor that was recently transformed into a two-way.

City traffic officials are conducting a traffic count on NP this week that could lead to a proposal to change the three-lane street into a two-lane street with a bike lane going in each direction.

NP Avenue is meant to be a lesser-traveled downtown street, not a major downtown thoroughfare, said Fargo Traffic Engineer Jeremy Gorden.

“There’s not really the traffic to justify that (many) lanes,” he said of the three-lane NP.

The city already plans to dig up NP next year to replace aging infrastructure, considered to be the oldest in the city. Crews will do the same work to First Avenue North in 2016.

Gorden said he’ll study the traffic data from NP over the next month. The city has to finalize a design for NP by December.

In broad numbers, City Commissioner Mike Williams said NP and First Avenue were designed to carry about 20,000 cars a day, but they’re only carrying about 9,000.

“NP and First don’t have to mirror each other. That’s what the real discussion’s been,” he said. “We have always thought of them as twin pairs, and that’s just not the case. They’re not going to function necessarily that way. First Avenue is going to carry more traffic.”

Gorden pointed out that while First Avenue connects downtown all the way to Interstate 29, NP Avenue cuts off at University Drive.

“It’s basically a local feeder into downtown,” he said,

NP Avenue would stay the same width – about 54 feet – but instead of having two lanes of traffic going east and one going west, there would be one traffic lane in each direction and a bike lane in each direction.

Parking on each side of the street would remain, and freight and delivery vehicles could double park in either lane by occupying a bike lane, Gorden said.

If the traffic lanes are reduced, he said there could be “common sense left turn lanes” on NP Avenue at Eighth Street and Broadway.

Adding bike lanes to NP could help fill the “hole in our bike lane network” in the downtown area, Gorden said.

The Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments, which studies traffic and transportation in the metro area, recently launched a website to provide area bicyclists with maps and other useful links to get around the F-M area, according to a news release.

The website, which can be found at www.bikefm.org, also provides a list of events and news.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518