Stuck for the summer: Construction projects will continue to slow traffic in Grand Forks through AugustIt’s not the 405 in Los Angeles, but construction season has turned some roads in Grand Forks into heavily congested motorways.
By: Robb Jeffries, Grand Forks Herald
It’s not the 405 in Los Angeles, but construction season has turned some roads in Grand Forks into heavily congested motorways.
The effects of the closure of part of Columbia Road and its DeMers Avenue overpass and the construction project on 32nd Avenue South are difficult to measure. City Traffic Engineer Jane Williams said hard statistics about the redirection of traffic are not yet available, but the completing work during the summer should minimize problems.
“We timed these projects to coincide with school being out,” she said. “We make a conscious effort to look at the schedules of the public schools and of UND to make sure we have road work going on with as few people in town as possible.
“We’re rather limited to when we can do construction, so primarily the construction that goes on is during this period of time. It’s just the way it has to be.”
The overpass closed May 5 and is scheduled to reopen in mid-August. The city’s public information office has created a Facebook page to provide pictures and updates of the construction.
The partial closure of Columbia Road had Kristine Middleton worried about her business. Middleton, who owns The Rose Flower Shop at 1375 S. Columbia with her husband, Jay, said she had plans to cut back her staff that she ended up not needing.
“I was worried at first, but those worries went unfounded,” she said. “The majority of our business is by phone, so we haven’t had as much of an impact. With Altru, Scheels and Hugo’s here, we’ve had plenty of walk-ins.”
Columbia’s closure has sent motorists looking for new routes to get around town. One of the heaviest-hit roads has been South Washington Street.
“I normally try to avoid Washington, but now it’s even worse,” Stefanie Houston, Grand Forks, said while pumping gasoline into her car at Cenex on Washington Street. She said the worst times of the day were during the typical morning and evening commute times. With several fast food options on Washington, Houston said the lunch hour could get busy, too.
Eric Kerr, general manager, Pita Pit, said the meal rushes have not changed much at his Washington Street store.
“I haven’t overheard anyone complaining about traffic or parking,” he said. “Over the past few months, business has been just fine.”
Brad Stenberg, also from Grand Forks, agreed, and said he has been searching for alternate routes for getting around Grand Forks.
“Cherry Street has been about as busy as Belmont Road, but it has less stops,” he said. “Twentieth Street is just as bad (as Washington Street) now that the stop signs have been added” at the corner of 20th Street and 11th Avenue, he said.
Signs direct drivers to use Washington Street as the detour for getting around the construction, but Williams, the traffic engineer, said that doesn’t mean everyone will take the signed route.
“The first few days, it seemed like Washington got most of it, but now it has evened out,” she said. “Any of the other north-south corridors will see more traffic because people have changed their routes to work or shopping.”
Roadwork on 32nd Avenue has closed down two lanes of traffic since May 20, and Hal Gershman, owner of Happy Harry’s Bottle Shop, which has a store on 32nd Avenue, has gotten an earful from his customers.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments from customers,” said Gershman, who is also the City Council President. “I think the public, frankly, is getting a little tired with it, and it looks only 50 percent complete. We all understand the work has to get done. We’d just like it done sooner.”
Mark Jensen, Reynolds, N.D., said he takes side streets to get around south Grand Forks, or goes north to DeMers Avenue to traverse the city from east to west.
“I’m not going in that,” he said, pointing at the evening rush hour traffic on 32nd Avenue from the Happy Harry’s parking lot.
Despite delays in getting around the city, Williams, the traffic engineer, said she has not gotten any complaints.
“I think most people around here know that we have to do road work during the summer, and they accept some of the delays that go with it,” she said.
On the Web: Find updates on the Columbia Road overpass project on Facebook.
Call Jeffries at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1105; or send email to email@example.com.