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Police: Put down cell phones, heed signs

Fargo police have two tips for drivers along 13th Avenue South: Stay off your cell phones, and pay attention to the signs. It could save you $60. Since Thursday, police have been cracking down in the 13th Avenue construction zone in an effort to ...

Fargo police have two tips for drivers along 13th Avenue South: Stay off your cell phones, and pay attention to the signs.

It could save you $60.

Since Thursday, police have been cracking down in the 13th Avenue construction zone in an effort to make traffic flow more smoothly.

Officers on foot and bicycles are pulling out all the stops to make sure vehicles don't block intersections, make illegal turns or run red lights.

Although there is extra manpower throughout the stretch between 23rd Street and 42nd Street, the major area of enforcement has been the 38th Street entrance to West Acres mall.

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Left turns are prohibited here during construction.

When drivers stop to turn, it drastically slows traffic along 13th Avenue, according to Fargo officer John Retterath.

If traffic is impeded, it creates a safety hazard, said Retterath, who has been stationed at the 38th Street intersection since last week.

Although there are signs indicating a prohibited left turn, many people are making turns anyway, he said.

"One-third of them are on their cell phones and just aren't paying any attention," Retterath said. "Others just seem to be turning out of habit."

Violators of the no-turn rule are receiving $60 fines. But for some motorists, the punishment has been even more costly.

"Half of the people we've stopped haven't been wearing their seat belts," Retterath said. "That's another $40 fine."

Retterath also has come across expired and fictitious license plates as well as revoked and invalid driver's licenses. It can be a costly mistake, he said.

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That's why police, along with the city of Fargo and the North Dakota Department of Transportation are asking drivers to exercise caution in construction zones.

Staying off cell phones and paying attention to posted signs are the best ways drivers can ensure safety, Retterath said.

This may be especially useful advice this week, according to Kevin Gorder, NDDOT Interstate 29 project coordinator.

Workers blocked off the 38th Street mall entrance Friday.

Drivers attempting to make left turns are confronted with a cement barricade.

Westbound traffic will need to enter West Acres at 40th Street, where temporary traffic signals have been installed with left-turn arrows.

The NDDOT expects closing the entrance will enable smoother traffic flow on 13th Avenue South's one west-bound lane between the I-29 bridge and 40th Street, Gorder said.

Police will continue to patrol this area throughout the construction season.

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"They're out there trying to make the traffic flow ... to make things better," Gorder said. "We want everyone to be as safe as possible."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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