FARGO — A pilot project to bury underground power and telecommunications lines in an alley in downtown Fargo was approved by the Fargo City Commission on a 3-2 vote Monday night, April 22.

Cost of the estimated $2.25 million project will be split between the city, the Kilbourne Group and Xcel Energy.

The telecommunications company may also contribute to the cost, but other business owners along the Roberts Alley, which runs from 1st Avenue behind Halberstadt's to Fourth Avenue behind Spicy Pie, won't have to pitch in as they previously stated they didn't want to pay for such a project.

Discussion over burying the power lines in alleys across downtown to make them look more like a city street has been ongoing for almost three years.

However, with the Roberts Alley businesses opening last year, there was more of an effort to see how much it would actually cost and if there was an interest by the city commission into looking at such a project.

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Commissioner Tony Gehrig, opposed the pilot project, along with Commissioner John Strand. Gehrig said the power lines were getting old anyway and asked why couldn't Xcel Energy pay for it. Strand thought maybe the businesses along the alley should face special assessments for part of the work.

However, Deputy Mayor Dave Piepkorn said the alley was "an awesome, unique place" that is a pedestrian walkway and can draw people into the city and voted for it, although he also said it was a great benefit for the businesses along the alley who will have their hookups moved underground.

The cost share estimate will be $912,000 for the city, $845,000 for Kilbourne and $500,000 for Xcel.