Erik Burgess, Published October 14 2013
Fargo scraps plans for Second Street North tunnelFARGO – The tunnel is out and Second Street North is staying.
City commissioners scrapped plans Monday night to turn a portion of Second Street into a tunnel and unanimously agreed to move forward with a downtown floodwall plan that keeps the well-traveled street intact.
City Engineer April Walker said 64 percent of about 210 people who responded last month to a survey on the project wanted to keep Second Street North open without a tunnel.
The floodwall is meant to provide permanent protection and save the city from the frequent headache of building temporary earthen dikes on Second Street North during spring floods.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to direct engineering staff to move forward with a plan that would shift Second Street to the west from First Avenue North to about Fourth Avenue North at a cost of about $23.5 million.
Large pieces of removable floodwall could be installed to the east of Second Street to allow for greater connectivity to the riverfront. This plan could require the buyout of Sidestreet Grille, a Fargo Public Schools warehouse and the former Shakey’s Pizza building. Commissioner Brad Wimmer was absent.
“I’m pleased,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said, adding that the thought of rerouting the 12,000 cars that travel daily on Second Street “over to Fourth Street, where I park every day, didn’t sound like it made a lot of sense.”
Commissioner Mike Williams said he thinks the city is “honing in on some beautiful plans.”
Walker said only 23 percent of those surveyed favored the $44.1 million tunnel plan, which would have built a roughly 740-foot tunnel along Second Street in front of City Hall, with a floodwall integrated into the tunnel’s side. Thirteen percent liked the plan that would have removed Second Street entirely in front of City Hall, allowing for ample green space.
State Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, who lives on Second Street North, said those who live on the northeastern edge of the city rely on Second Street as a main artery.
“They were split on other options, but without a doubt they did not want Second Street closed,” Flakoll said.
The responses received in the surveys are “consistent in a lot of ways” with what the engineering department wanted, Walker said.
“Having an active green space is very important to all the respondents that we heard from,” she said. “And transportation is very important. So maintaining the roadway in some form was very important to the public.”
Commissioners on Sept. 30 approved $50,000 of flood sales taxes to go toward hiring an urban landscape architecture firm to help with developing green space as the city’s engineering office works on the floodwall.
“I think we’re all moving in the same direction,” Walker said.
Mike Hahn, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership, said his group is pleased with the work done by the engineering staff.
He said his group wants riverfront development near the floodwall to have “abundant green space” with connectivity to the river corridor and 24/7 mixed-use commercial and residential space.
“We really want to see that area being used as part of another district for downtown that’s definitely going to have life to it,” Hahn said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518