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Main Avenue merchants anxious

Kimberly Reynolds will open a new Fargo business Monday, but it is a construction project 16 months away that concerned her the most Thursday. The owner of Rover's Playground, 3405 Main Ave., spent the past five months remodeling the former P...

Kimberly Reynolds will open a new Fargo business Monday, but it is a construction project 16 months away that concerned her the most Thursday.

The owner of Rover's Playground, 3405 Main Ave., spent the past five months remodeling the former Play It Again Sports building.

Thursday morning she was struck with the news the business may be relocated as part of a Main Avenue reconstruction plan.

"We had no idea that this was going to happen," Reynolds said.

Around 50 business and property owners flocked to the Kelly Inn for a public hearing Thursday night on the proposed reconstruction of Main Avenue from 25th to 45th streets.

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Project planners presented two main alternatives, plus a no-build option, and gave those attending a chance to voice their concerns on the record.

Mike Gorman, project manager for HWS Consulting Group, which designed the construction options, said the two main alternative designs that show a dozen businesses potentially being relocated aren't set in stone.

"If there are areas that we are going to have to buy or relocate a business, we're going to have a right-of-way agent that will talk to these business owners," he said.

The first alternative would reconstruct the existing four-lane road and frontage roads, adding curved "bulb-outs" where frontage roads meet major intersections to allow drivers to square up to Main Avenue before turning.

John Laskey, who owns land back from Main Avenue between 27th 1/2 and 28th streets, said he opposes the plan because it would force customers to drive a block out of their way to access businesses on his property.

"There's no way people could get to us," Laskey said.

The second alternative would turn Main Avenue into a six-lane road with a raised median and no frontage roads. Drivers would have direct access to businesses, but the the median would limit that access to right-in, right-out turns only. U-turns would be permitted at most intersections with stop lights.

Either plan would displace Charon Repair and Auto Sales, 3333 Main Ave. Owner Clarence Smerud said he prefers the no-build option, but he "highly doubts" the North Dakota Department of Transportation will choose it.

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The no-build alternative would consist of rebuilding the Interstate 29 interchange, including possibly adding a loop in the southeast corner for eastbound Main Avenue motorists getting on I-29 north. Only one business may be forced to relocate.

The public comment period on the Main Avenue project is open until Oct. 15. Comments will then be taken to Bismarck, where the NDDOT and city of Fargo will review them before making a final decision.

"We're looking at about 30 days from now for that decision," Gorman said.

Discussions on right-of-way acquisition and relocating businesses will probably begin 30 days later, after the final plan gets environmental clearance, Gorman said.

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

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