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After another car hits Moorhead DQ, owners and city officials cite 'driver responsibility' to prevent crashes

The Moorhead Dairy Queen, at the corner of Eighth Street and Main Avenue since 1949, is closer to the busy intersection than any other business there. The intersection will be redone as part of a reconstruction of Main, but that project is several years down the road.

Employees in neon vests stand at the corner of 8th and Main in Moorhead, looking at the intersection
The intersection of Eighth and Main in Moorhead, with the Dairy Queen on the northeast corner, is one of the busiest in the Fargo-Moorhead metro. Staff from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Moorhead walked the area Tuesday July 26, 2022, as part of planning for a Main Avenue reconstruction project.
David Samson / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — On a recent afternoon, employees of Moorhead’s landmark Dairy Queen at Eighth Street and Main Avenue had to be thinking, “Here we go again.”

A driver, reportedly trying to avoid a stalled vehicle on Main Avenue, crashed into the building around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 22.

It was at least the fourth time the building has been hit, according to Diane DeLeon, who owns the store with her husband, Troy, both of whom were working at the time.

It was the first of two crashes in the intersection that weekend. Just before 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 24, an injury accident was reported, but that one did not involve the Dairy Queen.

In the Friday crash, the vehicle hit the southeast corner of the building where the store’s walk-in refrigerator and freezer are located and where Troy DeLeon decorates ice cream cakes.

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“He was standing right there,” Diane DeLeon said, adding that her husband came within two feet of being hit.

A shelving unit that had just been stocked with toppings and other food supplies tipped over in the refrigerator.

Things have been patched up temporarily and they’re able to serve customers, but they won’t have everything replaced until the next DQ season, Diane DeLeon said.

The intersection is one of the busiest in Moorhead with approximately 25,000 vehicles passing through it each day, said City Engineer Bob Zimmerman.

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Though there may seem to be more crashes than normal at the intersection, it may be partly due to impression, Zimmerman said, because of the iconic Dairy Queen on the northeast corner.

He said the Eighth and Main intersection averages five crashes per year compared with 34 per year at similar intersections across Minnesota.

Still, he said, he doesn’t want to downplay the issue.

“Particularly with the Dairy Queen being as close to the intersection as it is, it’s definitely a concern,” Zimmerman said.

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Back when the Moorhead Dairy Queen was built in 1949, streets were narrower and the building was surrounded by a grassy, green boulevard, Diane DeLeon said.

But increased population and more traffic have since necessitated wider roads.

“Cars are driving faster. It appears they're more distracted, not paying attention, which is really sad,” she said.

The Friday crash wasn’t the first time Troy DeLeon came close to being hit.

The Moorhead Dairy Queen had to close Saturday, March 13, of last year, just weeks after opening for the season, when a morning crash took out one of the shop's plate glass windows.

031421.N.FF.DQCRASH.jpg
The Moorhead Dairy Queen was forced to close after a crash in the intersection of Main Ave. and 8th St. damaged the shop.

In that case, Troy DeLeon was lying on the floor nearby doing equipment maintenance, his wife said.

It was the second crash at the intersection that week.

On Thursday, March 11, 2021, a reckless driver caused a two-vehicle crash, and a Moorhead police officer said it was "almost miraculous" no other motorists or pedestrians were injured.

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The first time the DeLeons recall the building being hit was a few weeks after they took ownership of the business in August of 1995.

At the time, there were parking spaces on the north side, where a patio now stands.

A driver who thought they put their car in park hadn’t done so, and it rolled into the northwest front corner of the building, Diane DeLeon said.

“We just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what have we gotten into?’” she said.

She also recalled an Easter Sunday when a pickup truck rolled into the building.

The city of Moorhead, Minnesota Department of Transportation and Dairy Queen owners have taken multiple steps to improve safety surrounding the business.

The DeLeons bought a black wrought iron fence in 2016, and the city put in anchors for it when it redid the sidewalk.

The fence is put up in the spring and removed when they close up shop for the fall.

Moorhead Traffic Engineer Jonathan Atkins said the fence, which runs from the traffic signal pole to Dairy Queen's driveway, can deflect a vehicle but, more importantly, keeps pedestrians and customers from spilling out into the street.

“I’ve not seen any detriment to the vehicle side of the equation, but I have seen benefits to the people side, and that's been a really good thing,” Atkins said.

After the two crashes last spring, the city put up several bollards, or steel posts, on the south side of the building.

The breakaway posts are designed to work with the curb to keep a vehicle from impacting the building, Atkins said.

Zimmerman said the city and MnDOT are planning for reconstruction of Main Avenue and Eighth Street a few years from now, providing an opportunity to make improvements.

But cities and states can only do so much.

“We would love to be able to engineer solutions to all of these kinds of issues, but a lot of it really boils down to driver responsibility,” Zimmerman said.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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