Downtown Fargo businesses brace for Main Avenue reconstruction

Steve Bettenhausen owns the Gateway Cenex at 330 Main Avenue in downtown Fargo and is concerned how the street construction project will impact his business. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Major reconstruction of Main Avenue will get underway this spring and it promises to disrupt life for many businesses located on the important commercial arterial through downtown Fargo.

Steve Bettenhausen, owner of Gateway Cenex, said the business has weathered other road projects in the past and he's hoping that holds true for the latest one, which is slated to get started by mid-April.

Bettenhausen said his larger concern may be tied to what Main Avenue will be like after the project is completed, as Main Avenue in the area of Gateway Cenex is going from four driving lanes and a turning lane to two driving lanes, a turning lane, and space on either side of the street for curbside parking.

"They (business owners) are concerned," said Jeremy Gordon, transportation engineer for the city of Fargo, who added that in response to those worries the city has worked hard to make as many details available as possible regarding the project, which is being done in two phases.

The first phase — to be completed this summer and fall — involves Main Avenue from the Red River to Broadway.


The second phase — from Broadway to University Drive — will be completed during the 2020 building season.

A major feature of the project, a roundabout at Second Street and Main Avenue, will be done this summer.

Gordon said although much of Main Avenue will be closed between Broadway and Second Street this summer, drivers heading west across the Main Avenue bridge will be able to turn north onto Second Street until early August.

Likewise, he said, the intersection of Main Avenue and Broadway will be usable until late summer as well.

Gordon said business owners have asked that closed parts of Main Avenue be allowed for parking use when conditions allow and he said the city is open to those ideas.


Businesses have also asked that they be allowed to use Main Avenue as a site for things like street dances as a way to bring positive attention to the downtown corridor and to make sure customers don't forget about them.

Drew Balstad, general manager at Rhombus Guys pizza, said most businesses on Main Avenue understand the reconstruction is a project that has to happen, but he said no one thinks it will be an easy thing for businesses to have to weather.

"It's going to have some type of impact," he said. "It's just if it's going to be a little bit, or a lot."


Balstad added that businesses are looking at doing things like holding outdoor parties and other activities as a way to keep downtown Fargo on customer radar.

"If you drop off, you're going to be replaced," he said.

Balstad said he has appreciated how much the city of Fargo has done to keep businesses in the loop and he said it was feedback from property owners that helped convince officials to spread the work over two building seasons instead of trying to accomplish everything in 2019.

Gordon said Main Avenue is being reconstructed because the roadway itself is 50-60 years old, while underground utilities like water mains are even older.

He said NP Avenue will be the main detour route while Main Avenue is closed.

Each of the two phases of the project is expected to cost about $10 million, with the majority of the expense to be covered by state and federal funding, Gordon said.

This Fargo Street sign along Main Avenue advertises the upcoming construction project. David Samson / The Forum

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