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Dave Olson, Published January 23 2014

Moorhead residents say I-94 interchange options need to solve traffic issues

MOORHEAD – About three-dozen people gathered here Thursday night for what was billed as an open house on options for a new interchange at Interstate 94 and Eighth Street South.

Mike and Gina Wander, who live near the intersection of Eighth Street and 24th Avenue, just north of the interchange, said after the gathering they hope whatever option is picked will improve traffic flow on Eighth Street and reduce backup issues in their neighborhood.

“The intersection (with 24th Avenue) is the problem,” Gina Wander said.

At the open house, held at Courtyard by Marriott, officials with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Fargo consulting company Stantec outlined the options for a new interchange. They noted that a configuration known as a diverging diamond was the least costly at about $4 million and would likely be the most effective at solving traffic issues.

Other interchange options are priced at an estimated $5.8 million and $7.5 million.

Dale Grove of Stantec said the traffic backups that occur around the current interchange during busy times of the day will get worse as traffic numbers increase in coming years.

“I think we can safely say it’s a problem, but it’s going to get worse if we don’t do anything,” Grove said.

Seth Yliniemi, project manager for MnDOT, said input from the public, including written comments collected Thursday night, will be considered when officials select an interchange option this spring.

He said a design phase will then begin, followed by construction sometime in 2016.

Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams said she attended the open house to better understand interchange options being considered.

While the diverging diamond option state officials say they are leaning toward has some unorthodox aspects to it, Williams said she hasn’t really heard much worry from residents.

To the contrary, she said based on what she heard from residents during her election campaign she believes many in Moorhead are just happy a project is in the works, given the problems that occur at morning and afternoon rush hours.

Judy Bauman, who lives in south Moorhead near the interchange, said she avoids the interchange whenever possible, using instead a neighborhood street that passes under Interstate 94.

Bauman said she hopes whatever option is selected will help reduce traffic woes in the area.

David Shih said he attended the open house to get an idea about how a project might affect traffic in the area of the Snap Dragon restaurant, a business he operates on 30th Avenue South not far from the interchange.

He said his concerns apply both to a finished project and the building of it.

“Construction is always a concern for business owners,” Shih said. “If there’s a detour, that’s going to deter some folks from coming over.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555