MOORHEAD — To make up for lost construction time on the railroad underpass project at Southeast Main Avenue and 20th Street/21st Street, the Moorhead City Council approved an around-the-clock work schedule at its meeting Monday, May 13.

With a late start to spring, the main contractor, Ames Construction, submitted a rare request seeking permission for 24-hour work over a three-week period, City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said. The $66 million project includes three new railroad bridges, 1 mile of road reconstruction, a half-mile of retaining walls and 270,000 cubic yards of excavation.

The newly-approved night shift will be from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday mornings, starting Tuesday, June 4. Night work will include excavation — not loud drilling, piling or pounding. Work trucks will use Highway 10 east through Dilworth, Minn., for late-night hauling. There will be two 10-hour shifts each day and two-hour breaks in between shifts for refueling and maintenance.

"It's pretty unusual to get that kind of request, but this being as large of a project as it is warrants some consideration of an exception," Zimmerman told The Forum. "Obviously, part of the challenge here has been keeping everything moving forward as quickly as possible."

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Not extending hours would mean construction would be less likely to wrap up this year as opposed to the middle of 2020, Zimmerman said. While there are no guarantees when it comes to weather — a rainy July could set things back — a 24-hour schedule better positions the construction timeline, he said.

Zimmerman said the change doesn't impact existing detour routes, but one concern is noise for the surrounding neighborhood. Ames will disable backup warning beepers during overnight shifts to limit noise.

More than a dozen residents have reached out to the city, he said, with the majority in support of the 24-hour schedule. "The hope would be short-term pain for long-term gain," Zimmerman said.

The time setback was due to a delay with BNSF Railway installing temporary detour tracks to bring trains around the construction site. The temporary tracks, known as a shoofly, must be in place before bridges are built to create the underpass. The shoofly is under construction now and is estimated to be complete June 4.

Ames plans to submit an identical request for extended hours in September. Councilors said Monday night that they will see if the extra shift in June receives complaints before approving the extra shift in September. Several councilors said they've spoken with area businesses and area neighborhood groups about the project and the additional shift.

Despite adding the night shift, the underpass will likely not open this year.

"It would take optimal summer construction conditions, perfect coordination with BNSF and having a nice, late fall and a late start to winter," Tom Trowbridge, the city's assistant city engineer, told councilors Monday night.

As for the 11th Street underpass, Zimmerman said the city plans to apply for a federal BUILD grant to help pay for the project once the Main Avenue underpass is done.

Gigi Wood contributed to this story.