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Controversial right turn lane in 32nd Avenue project might still happen

Fargo City Commissioner Denise Kolpack reconsidered her vote to not include the right turn lane for reconstruction along 32nd Avenue. The turn would provide an extra lane for westbound traffic turning north at the busy intersection with 25th Street. Those in favor of eliminating the turn lane said it would make the area more pedestrian-friendly.

32nd Avenue between 25th and 27th street looking West.jpg
A number of patches can be seen on 32nd Avenue South in Fargo, which will be reconstructed in phases in the coming years. This is a drone photo look west at the area between 25th Street and 27th Street. Essentia Health hospital can be seen in the background.
Photo courtesy of Apex Engineering
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FARGO — The controversial 32nd Avenue right turn lane might still be included in the reconstruction of that city corridor after all.

After previously voting against including the lane at the intersection with 25th Street for west-bound traffic turning north, Fargo City Commissioner Denise Kolpack is reconsidering her decision.

She believes her vote at the last meeting, which approved the elimination, might have been premature.

Kolpack presented a new motion on Monday, July 25, urging members to wait until more information was available regarding the significance of the right turn lane and the cost of adding it back into the $20 million project slated to start in the spring of 2023.

“I voted to reject the amendment because I did not feel I had enough information as to costs or processes, and I also knew there were some time constraints regarding the bid award,” Kolpack said in a memo to the commission.

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The motion was passed in a 3-2 decision, with backing from Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Dave Piepkorn. It reversed a 3-2 motion at the July 11 meeting to take the turn lane out to make the intersection more pedestrian friendly.

City Engineer Brenda Derrig said the bid has been approved for the project, but the final contract is awaiting approval and it will likely be ready for the next meeting on Aug. 8.

Derrig said adequate information about the cost of the right turn lane would be available in roughly a month, adding she did not think it would cost more than $40,000.

The removal of the right turn lane from the project was one of the ideas meant to create a more pedestrian-friendly intersection, she said.

Considering traffic counts, Derrig said, the turn lane onto 25th Street is the most appropriate in the intersection to be removed. "If the vision is pedestrian-friendly and to shorten that distance, that would be the one that could get removed," she said.

City Commissioner John Strand noted requesting a change on the recently approved project bid is a little unsettling.

“It’s weird when we get a situation where we awarded a bid, and now before the ink's even dry, we're going to ask for a change order for something we don’t know,” he said.

For some Fargoans, the removal of the turn lane is a good thing. Resident Paul Gleye said he didn’t want to see his city “being snipped apart.”

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“I believe it is important to narrow the expanse for pedestrians across 32nd Avenue,” Gleye said, “and eliminating the right turn lane is one step towards doing that.”

Ensuring walkers' safety along busy streets should be on the top of the list of importance for city officials, he said.“ In future projects, I want you to think of pedestrian safety as a most important part of any consideration."

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