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Major Moorhead infrastructure work focused on downtown

Competitive bids means the Center Avenue reconstruction project can move forward.

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Mud is spread out to dry Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at the Main Avenue and 20th Street underpass construction site in Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in seasonlong series on road and other infrastructure projects in the metro area as projects proceed. Reports about traffic alerts and detours will also be part of the series.

MOORHEAD — Most of the big projects in Moorhead this construction season will be in the downtown area.

Each will have traffic consequences, but the underpass on Southeast Main Avenue years in the making is scheduled to open in July to provide some traffic relief.

The biggest traffic change will be the closing of four blocks of Center Avenue from the bridge by the Red River to Eighth Street. The bridge that connects to Fargo will also be closed.

Bids opened last Wednesday on the reconstruction project. The project has been in the planning stages for four years and assistant city engineer Tom Trowbridge said his department is "comfortable with proceeding," as he described the bids as "good" but over the city's estimates.

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He described the bids as competitive, too, with five companies submitting proposals ranging from $5.4 million to $6 million. The lowest two bids are only $80,000 apart.

The project estimate was $5.6 million, but that figure included extra fees and expenses associated with the project.

The new three-lane concrete roadway, mostly being funded by state aid, is part of the goal of further revitalizing the downtown.

The project will include adding a bike lane separated from the roadway, 21 new planter beds, 21 trees and 42 new light fixtures. There will also be benches and green space along the new avenue.

The Moorhead City Council is expecting to approve the bids at its May 9 meeting. The winning company will have a few weeks to prepare and will likely start construction in early June, Trowbridge said, when the avenue and bridge will be closed.

The project will be coordinated with another major effort downtown as the city works to finish a much-needed safety and improvement project in the oldest part of town — lining the brick sanitary sewer lines constructed by hand more than 80 years ago.

This year's work will involve lining the sewers for about 10 blocks on Main Avenue, Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue North at a cost of $6.5 million by Visu-Sewer Inc.

Residents have seen the above-ground pipes that served as temporary carriers for the sanitary sewer in recent years as other old parts of downtown had their brick sewers lined. This year, Trowbridge said some temporary forced lines buried under the streets and along and under the railroad tracks will also be used.

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He said Main Avenue will have to be closed for a time when they replace a manhole and bury a temporary pipe, but the city wants that to be done before shutting down Center Avenue to traffic. There will also be traffic impacts on Eighth Street when work is done in that area under the railroad tracks.

Trowbridge said they are working with businesses to keep access open as possible. One plan is to use alleys behind some of the businesses on Center Avenue to ease the situation.

Work will also continue on the fringes of downtown with the $51 million Main Avenue underpass that is entering its fifth year of work.

The wet weather in the past few weeks hasn't helped, but Trowbridge said the plan is to open it by mid-July, if not sooner.

The temporary track used by Burlington Northern railway has been removed, including the massive dirt base. Trowbridge said the next step is excavation for the remaining concrete street work that needs to be done under the new railroad bridges. With the clay soils that are below the water table, he said crews have to dig out about 4 feet of the clay and replace it with sand.

Once that's completed, along with finishing up the storm sewer in that area, he said contractors could begin work on the paving of the streets in mid to late May.

Also related to the underpass is a major revamping of the crossing over three railroad tracks on 12th Avenue South at 20th Street. Because that's part of a current detour for the underpass, he said work wouldn't start until July. It's the final project on the east-west avenue that has been renovated across almost the entire city over several years.

A major part of that project will be building up the east part of 20th Street to near the tracks for a smoother, less steep grade for vehicles over the railroad tracks.

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Road rehabilitation work is also underway in north Moorhead, but it won't involve a traffic issue for most motorists except for people living on residential streets. The project involves rehabilitating or overlaying about 10 blocks of streets.

Trowbridge said work will start this month with Xcel Energy replacing some gas lines and Moorhead Public Service replacing water mains.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Barry Amundson at 701-451-5665 or bamundson@forumcomm.com.

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