FARGO — As the opening of a new, massive Amazon distribution center here draws closer, city engineers are preparing for the additional traffic it will bring to an already busy northside.
The facility, measuring 1.3 million square feet, is being built at 3701 40th Ave. N., just northwest of Hector International Airport.
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Jeremy Gorden, city traffic engineer, said Amazon hired a Minneapolis consultant to do a traffic study of the area.
The study found Amazon will have approximately 500 employees coming and going per shift, and approximately 500 trucks going in and out of the facility over the course of a 24-hour period.
Gorden said employee load would not be a huge draw on the transportation system because County Road 20, also known as 40th Avenue North, can handle 10,000 to 12,000 cars per day.
Roger Kluck, the city’s project manager for street work, said a combination of widened roads and added turn lanes should be enough to accommodate the extra traffic for now.
“It’s going to be a good first step,” he said.
Amazon and the city are building 44th Avenue North, a new stretch of road directly south of the new Amazon warehouse, to connect County Road 81 and 37th Street North.
Then, in the second or third week of June, the city will begin widening key corridors in the area: 40th Avenue North on its approach to County Road 81 and a portion of County Road 81 between 40th Avenue and the new 44th Avenue.
Widening the roads will allow for more lane room and added turn lanes, Kluck said.
Gorden said traffic flow will also be helped by having all incoming Amazon trucks use 37th Street and all outgoing trucks use County Road 81.
Another part of the improvement project is the installation of new streetlights along 40th Avenue North stretching from Interstate 29 east to the Red River, Gorden said.
A total of 65 streetlights will improve visibility, he said, adding they should be in by late November.
Fargo began collaborating with Cass County on planning for the additional traffic when the city learned the Amazon distribution center would be built.
As Fargo annexes more land, as it did in the case of Amazon, county roads are being turned over so the city can manage development, access control and utilities, County Engineer Jason Benson said
Nearly 10 years ago, the county turned over County Road 20, now called 40th Avenue, to the city. Last fall, the county turned over a portion of County Road 81 north of 40th Avenue.
Benson said the biggest concern with any area like this is the additional truck traffic mixing with passenger vehicle traffic.
It takes longer for trucks to slow down, and their turn radius is bigger, he said.
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For now, no new stoplights are being considered, but electrical power is being run to the intersection of 40th Avenue and County Road 81 in anticipation of the need for one down the line.
Kluck said the road widening and additional turn lanes should be finished by the end of July.
The Amazon facility is expected to open this fall, perhaps as early as September.
Even after it’s open, Gorden said he heard it will take six to nine months before all of the hires are made and the warehouse is filled with goods.
As a result, the full impact of traffic probably won’t be felt until this time in 2022.
Gorden said he can’t emphasize enough that the Amazon site is an industrial one, not a commercial or retail operation.
“It’s a huge site, but traffic generated is not going to be a big amount,” he said.