MOORHEAD — Moorhead city engineers, as well as residents, were hoping the complex Main Avenue railroad underpass project would be completed by winter. But it's not going to happen.
As one of the rainiest few weeks of the summer passed, Moorhead Assistant City Engineer Tom Trowbridge, as well as City Manager Chris Volkers, said Friday the underpass won't open until next summer some time.
It's estimated the $52 million project is about 50 percent complete.
Besides the weather, problems with temporary railroad bridges through the construction zone due to an earlier slope failure have also slowed the project. Because of concern with the temporary bridge, the BNSF Railway is doing an exhaustive inspection before work will be allowed to resume in that area and safety can be assured.
However, to make life a bit easier for residents near the construction zone, a few roads leading up to the project are planned to be finished sometime this fall.
One is completing another block of 21st Street near Moorhead High School along a retaining wall to allow it to connect with 4th Avenue. That's part of the northeast entrance into the underpass.
Also planned is work on Main Avenue on the northwest side of the project closer to downtown. It will allow a connection to 19th Street and 4th Avenue South that leads to a strip mall and the popular Tastee Freez.
This past Friday, 20th Street between 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue opened to traffic, allowing better traffic flow in the Minnesota State University Moorhead area.
Trowbridge said opening some of the roads in the area is kind of touchy because they start to slope downward to eventually about 35 feet below where the road previously stood, causing drainage concerns. All of the roads will eventually drain into a huge new storm sewer system at the lowest level in the underpass, but storm sewer pipes aren't yet connected.
The assistant engineer added that although work is on hold near the temporary rail bridges, Ames Construction can still do work on driving in metal pipes or pilings for two of the three new railroad bridges that are a part of the project.
However, he said concrete work on the bridges can't start yet, but he hopes the two bridges can be completed this year.
It's anticipated that a three-week period of overnight construction will begin in November following the Otter Tail Valley Railroad track construction.
Once the underpass is completed, there will be no longer be train traffic delays in that area of town that has some of the city's busiest arterial roads.
The project started in late summer of 2018 and has passed the one-year mark.