Public input meeting gives scope of Grand Forks I-29 interchange project
The interstate interchange has been discussed for many years and is intended to alleviate traffic along 32nd Avenue South.
GRAND FORKS – A proposed I-29 interchange project was discussed during a public input meeting Wednesday evening in Grand Forks, giving residents the chance to ask questions and to learn more about the scope of the project.
The interstate interchange has been discussed for years and is intended to alleviate traffic along 32nd Avenue South. The location of the interchange is proposed to be anywhere between 32nd Avenue South and 62nd Avenue South.
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A study completed in 2017 by the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization identified current and future traffic operations to evaluate potential solutions and address traffic needs. The study found Grand Forks will continue expanding to the south, with an estimated 58% increase in future employment and a 46% increase in household growth.
Mike Bittner, a principal transportation engineer with Bolton & Menk who is serving as the lead traffic engineer for the project, said 32nd Avenue South already sees approximately 30,000 vehicles a day and is “one of the highest traffic corridors in the entire region.”
“As we look at traffic today, we’re already starting to see some bottlenecks build on that east side where we have 30,000 vehicles.”
Bittner said 32nd Avenue has various uses, including day-to-day commuters, retail traffic and special events at the Alerus Center. Per event, Bittner said the Alerus Center sees about 550 vehicles entering and exiting 32nd Avenue.
“So it creates a lot more traffic peaking and a lot more challenges than what a normal corridor would,” Bittner said.
Along with the high levels of traffic along 32nd Avenue, Bittner said there are more crashes along the four intersections closest to the interstate.
Among some of the concerns residents shared is the potential impact the interchange could have on schools, since South Middle School is located along 47th Avenue South and the school district also owns property along 62nd Avenue South.
Mike Huffington, a Market Development Manager with Ulteig Engineers Inc. who is serving as the consultant project manager, said the company has been in contact with the school district and schools have been factored into traffic models.
The project is still in the preliminary design and environmental clearance stage. Huffington said a number of field studies are being completed for the project, including an aquatic resource delineation, cultural resources inventory noise analysis and a topographic study.
Huffington said the hope is to have the environmental document and interchange justification request approved by the spring of 2023. Funding for the project will come from federal and state funding.
Wednesday’s meeting was the first public input meeting held for the project and was meant to gather feedback from residents to allow alternatives to be made. A second public input meeting is set to be held in December, when alternatives will be shared.