FARGO — Detour-weary drivers in southwest Fargo are catching a break this week as two lanes on 52nd Avenue South have opened to traffic.
The avenue will have head-to-head traffic in the westbound lanes for most of the way from Veterans Boulevard, across the bridges and through the 45th Street intersection. However, east of the new bridges, traffic is being diverted to outside lanes on both sides of the newly divided four-lane roadway. Farther to the west, traffic is head-to-head in newly constructed eastbound lanes from 63rd Avenue west to where it nearly connects with the Sheyenne Street roundabout.
"We just thought it was a good idea to get traffic moving again on the road," said Kevin Gorder, city of Fargo's traffic engineer, who noted that although a stretch of the avenue is open, there will still be construction going on along the arterial roadway and urged drivers to use caution. The speed limit in the area for now is 25 mph.
The $19.2 million project that is expanding the avenue to a divided four-lane roadway from 45th Street to near Sheyenne Street for 1.75 miles still has a ways to go.
"It's a big project," Gorder said.
Once complete, there will be a miles-long stretch of an east-west roadway across the metro that connects three cities, as it gives drivers a route starting at a roundabout south of Moorhead near the Bluestem Center for the Arts, across a Red River bridge, through Fargo and into southern West Fargo at Sheyenne Street.
One of the big parts of this year's work has been the two bridges being constructed over Drain 27, a ditch that cuts through that part of the city. One of the bridges is complete in the westbound lanes, where traffic is now moving. Gorder said the other bridge will likely be done by the end of September, when more lanes of traffic could open.
Although traffic is resuming on part of the road, there is some bad news.
The avenue will be closed off entirely from Veterans Boulevard west to 63rd Avenue to allow work on that stretch to pick up steam. There will no longer be a bypass and temporary road going west off of Veterans Boulevard.
Several north-south intersections will remain open to allow traffic to flow to businesses and neighborhoods, including 63rd Avenue, which leads into the Deer Creek neighborhood where a new West Fargo elementary school is opening this month.
Gorder said 47th Street and 53rd Street intersections along 52nd Avenue will remain closed for now.
As for stoplights, Gorder said when finished there will be stoplights on the roadway at 45th Street, Veterans Boulevard and 63rd Street. At the other intersections, because of the divided road, there will be something new to the city. They are R-CUT intersections, where only right-hand turns will be allowed, to prevent traffic from having to cross over the avenue. If drivers want to head in the opposite direction, or in other words, to make a left-hand turn, they will drive into the far lane and then there is a cut-in to allow them to do a U-turn going the other way.
Another major part of the project is the new shared-use pedestrian and bike pathways along both sides of the avenue. It also includes a connection that goes under the drainage ditch bridges, allowing safer passage under the busy road. It connects with other pathways in the area.
Looking ahead, the project is leaving roadway turn lanes and cut-ins for new housing developments expected south of 52nd Avenue in what is now a huge open field.
In other project updates:
42nd Street overpass in Fargo: The overpass over Interstate 94 on 42nd Street is expected to reopen to traffic this week, after being closed to allow repairs on the approaches to both ends of the bridge, where there were uncomfortable driving bumps. To the south, traffic lanes will continue to narrow to allow work on concrete repairs on the street. That repair work south of the bridge is expected to take several more weeks.
Main Avenue in Fargo: There is some big news this week, as Main Avenue has reopened from Broadway to 4th Street with new, wider sidewalks and parallel parking spots in front of businesses. The roadway opened about three weeks ahead of schedule. The intersection with Broadway is also complete, giving detour-weary downtown drivers another access into the heart of the city.
The bad news is that the Veteran Memorial Bridge access to and from Moorhead is closing this Monday so work can start in earnest on a roundabout.
New colorful pavers, landscaping, trees and safer pedestrian crossings will be among the amenities of the new roadway.
Interstate 29: Be ready for some lane closures, especially in the 52nd Avenue area, while the North Dakota Department of Transportation is installing high-tension cable median barriers as a safety measure. Posts were going up for the barriers starting just south of 52nd Avenue and heading north into the city this past week.
The four steel cables between posts act like a net when a vehicle strikes them. The cables are designed to detach from the posts and absorb the energy of the vehicle, according to NDDOT. The vehicle is slowed and redirected to prevent a potential cross-median crash.
Horace roundabout on Cass County 17: The roundabout is complete on Cass County Road 17, the main north-south road into and out of Horace. It has been closed since last May, forcing drivers to use a temporary detour on township roads to the west.
The road opened this past Saturday, Aug. 17. Speeds have been set at 25 mph in the roundabout, as well as going south through downtown Horace. To the north of the roundabout, the speed limit has been lowered to 45 mph. The roundabout at the intersection with 76th Avenue South is one and a half lanes. This means there is a single traffic lane around the roundabout with extra turning lanes on both east-side corners to keep northbound and eastbound traffic in a continuous traffic flow.
Crews will still be working on 76th Avenue to the east, although the road is open to the west. To the east, residents can access their neighborhoods, but the road is closed to through traffic. Crews are still installing curb and gutter, new storm sewer and additional driving lanes to the future home of Heritage Middle School and West Fargo Horace High School.
Elm Street North in Fargo: Starting this Monday, Elm Street North from 13th Avenue to 15th Avenue will be closed for a storm sewer repair. It could take up to four weeks. Vehicles will be detoured to Third Street North.
Sheyenne Street in West Fargo: The final big pave under the Interstate 94 bridge is underway, as the 24-foot southbound lanes and connections to the interstate ramps are being poured. Also, northbound lanes near the expanded Sheyenne Street diversion bridge are being poured.
Farther south, the goal between 32nd Avenue South and 37th Avenue South is to have all gravel work done this week, with paving to follow. From 37th Avenue to 40th Avenue on the far south end of the project, work is farther ahead with driving lanes poured, but work remains on medians and shared-use paths along the road. It's hoped a shared-use path on the east side of the roadway will be done all the way from 32nd to 40th, to allow school children a walking or biking path to schools in the area, by the time school begins.
15th Avenue North in Moorhead: The road, under construction for a couple of years, is expected early this week to open all the way from the former toll bridge over the Red River to U.S. Highway 75, where a new signal light will be in place. Crews began milling several early last week, and then late last week, two pavers and about 30 trucks did "tandem paving," a method that provides a seamless roadway.
There will be additional finishing work on the project, but it will remain open to traffic. Drivers are urged to use caution on the road until work is completed.
The avenue has seen an explosion in traffic since the toll was taken off the bridge in 2016, according to Moorhead traffic engineer Jon Atkins. In February 2016, there were about 2,200 cars a day on the avenue, but seven days later it climbed to 4,500 a day and a year later it was 11,500 a day. Now it's at about 10,000 cars a day. That's a 355 percent increase since 2016.
Having the road open should "relieve traffic pressure" in the area, Atkins said.
Eighth Street South in Moorhead: The street has had a rough time in the past two years with wear and tear. Although Atkins said the city is developing plans on what to do with the road when the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct the street in 2025, there was some patching done this summer, resulting in lane reductions. He said that work is done now, including paving along the outside lanes between Second Avenue South and 20th Avenue South that should result in a smoother ride.
Atkins said the city's public works department did the work, while MnDOT agreed to pay for the asphalt and milling, which came to $55,000. That also included a short northbound turn lane paving project at the intersection of U.S. Highway 10 and U.S. 75 in northeast Moorhead.
Center Avenue in Moorhead: Part of U.S. Highway 10, it reopened last Thursday from 8th Street to 11th Street in one westbound lane, where it had been closed for utility work tie-ins to new businesses. One lane is still closed as sidewalk and other work is going on along the street where new apartments and businesses are in progress.
Fifth Street and Second Avenue intersection in Moorhead: The intersection will be closed beginning this Monday, Aug. 19, for two to four weeks to replace a water main in the area.
Moorhead railroad underpass project: A slope failure caused the closure of the "shoo-fly" railroad track for two days in the overpass project earlier this month. Atkins said they are still monitoring the situation and work on railroad bridges has been delayed until Aug. 23. However, Atkins doesn't think it'll set the project back too much. The paving of 21st Street on the northeast end of the project just west of the Moorhead High School should be done by about Aug. 26, well before school starts.