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Fast track for campus construction

Traffic moves along University Avenue between the English Coulee and Columbia Road on Thursday. Construction may be happening later this summer from the coulee to Columbia Road. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

An overhaul of University Avenue through UND campus may be in the works this summer, putting construction for the road "on the fast track," city and university officials say.

The school launched the "Coulee to Columbia" project in 2017, which includes three major renovation projects along the stretch of University Avenue spanning the Coulee and Columbia Road. The road work would be a part of the project. The project seeks to enhance the student experience and walkability of campus.

Street scaping, including work to the medians and new lighting, was already planned to be completed in 2019.

A mill and overlay project on University already was scheduled for the 2020 construction season. That project would stretch from downtown Grand Forks at Third Street all the way through campus.

However, City Administrator Todd Feland said the city and the university now are considering completely redoing University Avenue from the English Coulee to Columbia Road rather than just a mill and overlay project.

"UND is working on final design elements, and we're working in partnership with that," Feland said. "Once we get the final design and costs, we're working on a cost share between the city and UND in moving that project forward."

UND facilities Vice President Mike Pieper said because of the amount of construction work already planned with the Memorial Union and other projects, a "complete redo" of University Avenue may be better in the long run.

The city had submitted applications to the North Dakota Department of Transportation for urban road grants along University Avenue, however, Feland said the city has yet to hear if it will receive the grants.

The university would like the project sent out for bid sometime this spring with construction starting this summer, Feland said.

"It's a little bit on the fast track right now, so a lot of things have to come together in the near term, but right now that's what we're shooting for," he said, adding that design and cost share aspects should be finalized sometime in February.

Pieper said the university is also finishing up work with U3 Advisors, a company the school hired to help identify and develop specifications for soliciting possible development for some of the campus's vacant lots. Pieper said draft information could be done by the end of January, with potential requests for proposals going out some time after mid-February.

"Time will tell what kind of activity that might generate," he said, adding that the university is looking for mixed-use housing that could also bring new restaurants and retailers to the campus area.

UND student body president Erik Hanson previously told the Herald that the mixed-use housing could help "create a living community in which students can feel like they can be on campus, while still getting all the things they need in their daily life."

The city and UND are also working together on other aspects as well, Feland said. The two entities are looking at ways to further link downtown Grand Forks with campus, and the city may also be taking over UND bus routes this fall.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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