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Erik Burgess, Published October 12 2013

Fargo's 2nd Street North tunnel plan unpopular

FARGO – Plans for a tunnel on Second Street North may soon be scrapped, but the street itself appears likely to stay.

The city engineer here wants city commissioners to reject a plan to build a tunnel on Second Street North and focus on flood protection plans that keep a street along the downtown riverbank.

In a memo to the City Commission, City Engineer April Walker recommends that commissioners no longer consider a $44.1 million tunnel as a viable option for flood protection in front of City Hall.

The City Commission will vote on the matter Monday, choosing a path forward for the project, which could be bid out for construction by next fall. The floodwall is meant to provide protection that would prevent the city from having to frequently build a temporary earthen dike on Second Street North during spring floods.

After receiving more than 200 responses during a public outreach period last month for the proposed floodwall, Walker said only 23 percent of those surveyed liked the tunnel, which would’ve been about 740 feet long with a floodwall integrated into the side.

Even less – 13 percent – liked the proposal that would remove Second Street entirely from in front of City Hall, leaving ample room for pedestrian and park-like space. Walker in her memo also suggests the City Commission abandon that plan.

Two other proposals remain. The so-called “base alternative” plan received 37 percent of the vote in the public survey. That plan would shift Second Street slightly to the west, requiring the city to buy Sidestreet Grille & Pub, a Fargo Public Schools warehouse and the former Shakey’s Pizza building. It costs an estimated $23.2 million.

Walker said 27 percent of those surveyed chose option 1B, a similar plan that would shift Second Street farther west than the base option to accommodate additional green space and/or a pedestrian overpass to connect to the river.

Option 1B would also include more removable floodwalls to allow for greater connectivity to the river corridor. It requires the same buyouts as the base alternative and costs $23.5 million.

Walker’s recommendation suggests a hybrid of the base alternative and option 1B, keeping Second Street North in place to accommodate traffic and incorporating green space “while keeping cost in mind.”

“Our staff is confident that a hybrid alternative can be generated that will meet these goals,” she said.

The City Commission on Sept. 30 approved $50,000 of flood sales tax to be used to hire an urban landscape architectural firm to help city engineers with the floodwall and green space project.

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