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Interstate neighbors' long wait nearly over

Groundwork for North Dakota's first sound barrier could begin as early as next week, Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday. Utility companies will move their lines first, and the first concrete columns along Interstate 94 between ...

Groundwork for North Dakota's first sound barrier could begin as early as next week, Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday.

Utility companies will move their lines first, and the first concrete columns along Interstate 94 between Fifth Avenue and South University Drive will go up around July 1, said project coordinator Kevin Gorder.

About 30 Fargo residents from both sides of I-94 gathered Wednesday evening at Nativity Catholic School to review the project's timetable and ask questions about it.

"It's obviously going to be a big impact, because they're going to have people working in their back yard all summer," Gorder said.

The sound of cars whizzing down I-94 is bearable now, said Camille Heuer, who lives on 18th Avenue South. But she and several other residents wondered if the walls would reflect more noise into their areas.

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"You think, it's got to go somewhere," she said.

The wall is designed to reduce noise by 5 decibels for the first row of houses, said Bob Walton, the department's Fargo district engineer. At an average height of 21 feet, the barrier's effectiveness will dissipate the farther away a house is, but it won't reflect more noise into an area, he said.

"The only thing that can create more noise is more traffic," Walton said.

Several residents asked how the barriers will affect their trees. The project calls for removing 326 trees, 68 of which will be transplanted to the interchange at I-94 and 45th Street or between Riverside Cemetery and the Red River, Gorder said.

Kay and Larry Leclerc will lose half a dozen trees from their back yard on the north side of I-94, but Kay said the sound barrier is worth it.

"It's nice to see after all these years," she said. "We've waited for so long."

Chuck Fritz, who lives along Park Drive on the south side of I-94, was told he'll receive two weeks' notice to move his backyard fence before work begins in his area. Still, he said he's anxious for the work to begin.

"For 12 years I've been working on it," he said.

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Work will begin near Nativity school so the wall can be finished before school starts in August, Gorder said.

Residents also were able to view the flower, tree and wheat stalk designs that will be visible from I-94 on about 20 percent of the barriers. The inside of the walls will have a sidewalk-type broom finish, Gorder said.

Additional landscaping work is scheduled in 2004 along the walled areas without architectural treatments.

Bids came in low for the architectural treatments, at $80,000, but higher than expected for a spray-on textured surface, at $96,000, Gorder said. The overall cost of $176,000 will be split evenly between the city and state.

The state also will pay to spray the wall with an anti-graffiti coating near pedestrian underpasses.

The state has no plans to extend the sound barriers west to 25th Street, Gorder said. A grinding process on I-94 from the Red River to I-29 in late June should provide a quieter road texture, he said.

The $2.5 million project will be funded 90 percent with federal dollars and 10 percent with state and local money.

Industrial Builders Inc. of West Fargo, the barrier project's general contractor, will install the 14- to 24-foot-high barriers, which are made by Concrete Inc. of Grand Forks, N.D.

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The project is scheduled for completion by Dec. 20.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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