Moorhead seeks input to update widest residential street

Moorhead city leaders and historians explore what led to the strange street's size.

17th Street.jpg
This shows the exceptionally 60-foot wide mostly residential street in north Moorhead that is being studied for improvements. Dave Sampson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — Many people have wondered why a one-mile stretch of 17th Street North in Moorhead is so wide.

As officials have been working on preliminary plans for updating and improving the road and residents have been providing input online, they didn't find many answers to that question.

From curb to curb, the street is 60 feet wide, where most streets with parking on both sides are about 30 to 32 feet, said Luke Champa, who works for the metro regional planning organization, METROCOG.

What's also unusual is that the right of way is 140 feet, while that is typically about 80 feet.

The large size doesn't seem to fit in such a mostly residential neighborhood.


One little-explored theory, Champa said, is that early settlers in Moorhead may have wanted the roadway that wide to save room for an electric street car.

Mark Piehl, local historian for Clay County, offered another thought. He said it was, perhaps, platted wide and named Park Avenue at first to make it more prestigious and raise the value of lots on the street.

There was never a park along the street, and there isn't even one adjacent to it.

"To have some fun with it," Champa offered some more creative theories that can be ruled out.

It was never a drag racing strip or a planned runway for the airport, he said. It also was not planned to be part of U.S. Highway 75 or made wider for American Crystal Sugar or another company.

The street dates back to 1881 when lawyer Ferdinand Elder platted it and it was named Park Avenue. That's when the right of way was set at 140 feet.

In 1902, the city's current street and house numbering system was implemented, and it became 17th Street North.

After exploring the history, the city and METROCOG determined there was no clear historical purpose for the width and it has been that way since its inception.


Champa said there have been many responses to what should be done with the roadway as METROCOG conducted its first 100% virtual public input session that started Aug. 9 on the street project.

Residents can comment until Monday, Aug. 31.

Champa said the city wants to do a mill and asphalt overlay on the street in 2022, but they also want to know if any amenities should be added.

After the public input, he said, they will compile the comments and offer up a possible plan for the city.

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