FARGO — Usually road projects can drag on.

In a pleasant surprise to drivers in downtown Fargo, it was announced Friday, Aug. 16, by the North Dakota Department of Transportation that Main Avenue will reopen from the Broadway intersection to 4th Street by Monday, Aug. 19 — three weeks before the scheduled opening date.

The intersection of Broadway and Main will open, giving back another entryway into downtown Fargo.

Stoplights will be operational on that intersection, as well as on the 4th Street and Main intersection, which has been uncontrolled since it reopened last month. There was a backlog on traffic signals construction, so the new ones won't arrive until spring. Temporary ones have been installed for now, NDDOT Project Manager Aaron Kelsch said.

Traffic can also flow farther east on Main Avenue to provide easier access to the Fryin' Pan Family Restaurant, the strip mall and Gateway Cenex service station.

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The contractor, Dakota Underground of Fargo, started work on the Broadway intersection on June 25, and on Main to Fourth Street on June 17. The contractor will be financially rewarded for finishing the phases ahead of time.

Crews will now go full steam ahead on the final phase of the project — the roundabout on Second Street — also starting this Monday, which means access through the rest of the avenue to and from Moorhead, through the underpass and Veterans Memorial Bridge will be closed, possibly until mid-October. Underground utilities, some dating back 50 to 60 years, have been replaced in the area, so work on the roundabout itself will begin soon.

Drivers should be aware that the new stretch of Main Avenue is a three-way roadway instead of the old four-lane avenue. It will begin for now near the Main and Seventh Street intersection, but eventually the main thoroughfare will be three lanes from the Red River to Ninth Street and transition to a four-lane between Ninth Street and 11th Street and a five-lane to University Avenue when the second phase of the Main Avenue project is completed next year.

There will be a middle turning lane all along the newly constructed road, with extra parallel parking in front of downtown businesses along both sides of the street. There will also be wider sidewalks and safer crossings for pedestrians.

Crews will still be working in the area as they finish up landscaping and other touches, but for the most part the roadway and new sidewalks on both sides of the road are completed.

There are new colored pavers and more trees and landscaping that will dot the avenue. The bison statute by Wimmer's Diamonds will also be returned to its home this coming week. Kelsch said last week the trees probably won't be planted until spring.

It was also noted that the north sidewalk across Veterans Memorial Bridge and through the underpass will remain open during the roundabout construction

Kelsch also told The Forum that while all of the work is underway on Main this summer, NDDOT designers have been working on the rest of the project that will next year go from Broadway to near University Drive. That estimated $10 million second phase of the project will be bid in November.

Some unique features are planned for the second phase. Next year, drivers traveling west on Main Avenue from downtown will be able to go north under the University Drive underpass and will then make a forced turn onto NP Avenue. A median will be built in the underpass to separate the traffic flow on what will continue to be mostly a one-way going south.

The advantage to the underpass change is that it gives another route to the north when trains are overhead. Additionally, new digital signs will be installed on both ends of the Main Avenue project, alerting drivers that they can take the underpasses to avoid trains.

The two-year makeover of Main Avenue is a joint project of NDDOT and the city of Fargo to "transform the gateway into a safe, accessible and beautiful passageway to and through the heart of Fargo," said NDDOT public information coordinator Melissa Reichert of the Flint Group..