EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 14th in a series of regular reports on road and other infrastructure projects this construction season in Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Cass County and Clay County.
FARGO — The 30-year-old North Broadway bridge over the Red River that closed Feb. 11 because of structural deficiencies has been undergoing a study by a team of consultants, and a decision on what's next from the city engineering department is possibly nearing.
In a report to the Fargo City Commission last week and in an interview with The Forum, Transportation Engineer Jeremy Gorden said the four tasks given to the SRF Consulting firm were to do a traffic analysis, complete a study of the road leading up to the bridge on the Fargo side, help gather public feedback and provide cost estimates for reconstruction options.
The bridge, in a wooded area in far north Fargo, connects the city and a rural part of Clay County.
The traffic analysis has shown most of the vehicles — about 85% — that used the bridge have switched over to driving on 10th Street North or North University Drive.
The bridge closing has especially affected traffic on 10th Street North, a residential roadway, with an increase of 300% since the bridge closed from 370 vehicles per day to 1,000 per day.
Traffic on North University, before it was closed for reconstruction this summer and is further complicating current traffic flows in the area, has increased from 3,700 vehicles per day to 5,200 per day since the bridge closed and before the road was closed..
The North Broadway bridge carried about 2,200 cars per day.
Gorden said the pier on the bridge that was leaning and causing the bridge to be unsafe is still slowly moving.
The latest information he has from SRF and the Minnesota Department of Transportation is that an estimated fix of $2 million to repair the pier isn't a good option.
"They are recommending we don't do it," Gorden said.
Thus, a meeting of leaders who would share the project from Fargo, Moorhead and Clay County, will be held. The meeting will be after a "geotechnical study" of the problematic road leading up to the bridge on the Fargo side, and an online survey of residents in Fargo, Moorhead and Clay County in the vicinity of the bridge.
Gorden said a cost estimate to replace the bridge at its current height or at a higher level of about 37 feet to protect it from flooding will also be determined before a final decision is made.
An initial estimate to demolish the bridge and rebuild it at the current level is about $4 million, while the higher bridge would raise the cost to an estimated $8-12 million. More firm estimates are expected.
When asked about fixing the roadway leading up to the bridge on the Fargo side, Gorden said the "very weak" clay soil from the river bottom leads to the difficulties. He said, however, it probably could be a rather easy fix, after cost estimates are considered.
There is another bridge crossing at a height of about 45 feet over the Red River about half-mile to the north on 40th Avenue (also known as County Road 20), but Gorden said it would be nice to have more than one river crossing in that area.
Gorden said other roadways, especially North University Drive, can adequately handle the extra traffic if the bridge is closed. The traffic analysis also offered some ideas to calm traffic on 10th Street North through the mostly residential area including curb extensions, restricting turning movements and reconfiguring intersections.
In other Fargo project updates:
SEVENTH AVENUE NORTH: Work has been completed on about four blocks of the seven-block reconstruction project on the major east-west roadway on the northside of downtown Fargo. The city is opening the avenue block by block as construction is completed.
The four blocks completed are open to traffic on the west side of the project starting at University Drive near the Family Fare grocery store. Motorists can also access the avenue in those four blocks from the north.
Crews are currently working on the final three blocks of the project from just past Ninth Street to Broadway by the Sanford Broadway Clinic. The final stretch of the project area was closed off to traffic at the Broadway intersection last week.
The avenue is slated to open by Aug. 23 when it will open to the Eighth Street intersection. The avenue is being completely reconstructed with new utilities, curb, gutter and sidewalks and follows on the heels of the road being rebuilt from Broadway to the east last year.
The avenue had been called one of the roughest roadways in the city prior to reconstruction.
11TH STREET NORTH: Reconstruction of one block of 11th Street North on the west side of downtown is nearly complete as concrete paving is done and work is being done on finishing the curb and gutter and pouring a new wider sidewalk. Street lights are expected to be installed this week. The project runs from NP Avenue North to First Avenue North and is a continuation of the reconstruction of numerous downtown streets and avenues, some of the oldest in the city.
RAILROAD QUIET ZONE: The city is continuing work on creating a railroad quiet zone with no horns on Seventh Avenue North and its intersection with 16th Street North near apartment buildings and the Fargo Brewing Co. The plans are 95% complete, with the next steps involving completing an agreement with the Burlington Northern Railway for the improvements and to have their signal team in Kansas City design the modified lights and gates that will also include sidewalk gates. It's anticipated the quiet zone will be done by September of next year.
FOURTH AVENUE SOUTH: Work started last week to repair a storm sewer with the westbound lane on Fourth Avenue South between Maple Lane and Oakway closed. This work should be done this week.
16TH STREET NORTH: A one-block stretch of the street from First Avenue North to Second Avenue North is nearing completion as the asphalt base was paved July 22-23, with work on the sidewalks starting this past week. Work on reconstructing and widening the street was phased in to keep businesses open.
SECOND AVENUE NORTH: The avenue between 15th Street and 16th Street has been rehabilitated and is done except for a final wearing course of asphalt. Work should be done this month. The newly repaved roadway connects with the newly redone 16th Street.
10TH AVENUE NORTH, 15TH AND 16TH STREETS NORTH: Roadwork is continuing in this project area in north Moorhead that is just east of Robert Asp Elementary School. Utility work was also part of the work and has been completed with Xcel Energy replacing natural gas mains and Moorhead Public Service replacing water mains. Some sanitary sewer work as well as curb and gutter and sidewalk repairs have also been completed. The work on the two block stretches of 15th and 16th streets from Eighth Avenue to 10th Avenue involves roadway rehabilitation. The paved base was completed on 15th Street on July 22-23 and work on 16th Street started July 28. Work will also involve milling and an asphalt overlay on 10th Avenue this month from 15th to 17th Street. The avenue was rehabilitated from 14th Street to 15th Street.