WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 06, 2014, 08:55 AM

'It's gonna not be cool'; bumper-to-bumper traffic expected as 25th Street South project gets underway

FARGO - If you’re planning to drive down 25th Street Tuesday, don’t do it unless you have to.

By: Archie Ingersoll, INFORUM, Forum News Service

FARGO - If you’re planning to drive down 25th Street Tuesday, don’t do it unless you have to.

That’s the message from officials managing a construction project that starts early this morning and is expected to cause bumper-to-bumper traffic on a six-block stretch of 25th Street around Interstate 94.

The construction, scheduled to last until mid-November, will reduce traffic to one lane in each direction from 17th Avenue to 23rd Avenue. And until motorists adjust their daily routes, the work could create delays of 15 to 20 minutes, said Kevin Gorder, an NDDOT assistant district engineer.

“If you don’t need to be on the corridor, find an alternate route,” he said.

Gorder said the $15 million project is one of the largest ever undertaken in Fargo in terms of the impacts it will have on traffic.

On an average day, 27,000 vehicles cross the bridge that carries 25th Street over I-94. An estimated 65,000 to 70,000 vehicles travel under the bridge on the interstate each day. And the busiest ramp at this interchange sees roughly 8,000 vehicles daily.

“This is probably one of the bigger challenges we’ve taken on as far as how to deal with traffic,” Gorder said.

In this construction zone, left turns will be especially problematic.

“When you have one person waiting to make a left turn, and there’s oncoming traffic, traffic’s essentially stopped at that point until that left turn can clear,” he said.

To keep cars and trucks flowing through this critical artery, Gorder estimates 10,000 drivers will have to find an alternative route. There’s no official detour because the best route depends on a driver’s origin and destination, but some other possible routes include 45th Street, 42nd Street, Interstate 29 and University Drive.

Prompting this project is the high volume of traffic on 25th Street, currently a four-lane road. The construction will add a lane in each direction between 17th and 23rd avenues to reduce congestion and bring the capacity to 50,000 vehicles per day, Gorder said.

“Since the bridge was built in 1990, the surrounding neighborhoods and business communities have grown and more traffic travels through this corridor,” he said.

To create the additional lanes, the bridge deck over I-94 will be widened. Some of that work will require temporary lane closures on I-94 and will be done overnight to ease the effects on traffic.

The project will also involve building a freeway entrance to let northbound drivers on 25th Street zip onto eastbound I-94 toward Moorhead without having to make a left turn onto an entrance ramp.

Ruby Tuesday, a restaurant near the interchange, has been taking steps to prepare for the project, such as concocting drink specials to entice customers to the patio and signing a contract with a food delivery company.

“We’re expecting a pretty big impact,” manager Amber Spitzer said. “I think we’ll be fine, especially since we are the only Ruby Tuesday in town now.”

Alison Erickson, who lives on 26th Street, a block from the construction zone, anticipates that some drivers will speed through her neighborhood to avoid the stop-and-go traffic. Erickson, 35, is also not looking forward to seven months of delays while she’s commuting on 25th Street.

“It’s gonna not be cool,” she said. “It’s already kind of bad with the way it is right now, with two lanes on each side.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734