Planning and Development
Commercial and residential development around the 52nd Avenue South corridor in Fargo continues to grow quickly along with the needs for infrastructure to meet these new demands. The growing Deer Creek community had an especially difficult time accessing 52nd Avenue South due to a lack of traffic control features. Pedestrian safety along the roadway was an issue since there was no protected crossing in the area. HEI and our partner worked with the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments (Metro COG), the City of Fargo, and the North Dakota Department of Transportation to study this corridor to determine the infrastructure needed to better serve the growing population.
The team documented existing and forecasted conditions to help identify what needs the corridor must meet. As part of the study, the team engaged residents and businesses through public meetings, mailers, a website, and social media to inform them of the coming construction while ensuring alternatives met their needs.
A steering committee of staff from Metro COG, the cities of Fargo and West Fargo, and Cass County was formed to ensure the needs of the various agencies were met, as well. Roundabouts and traffic signals were evaluated to help motorists navigate busy cross-traffic during peak travel times. From the study, it was determined the roadway should be expanded to four lanes from 45th Street in Fargo to Sheyenne Street in West Fargo. As part of the roadway widening, new traffic signals, lighting, curb and gutter, a shared use path, restricted crossing U-turns (RCUTs), and two bridges were deemed necessary to bring the vision of this corridor to life. After completing the study, HEI worked with the City of Fargo to complete the design.
Improving Pedestrian Safety
The City of Fargo has worked for years to create a large network of shared use paths throughout the community. Pedestrians, cyclists, and others can hop on a path in one part of town and travel along the Red River, throughout neighborhoods, and into commercial developments. This project expanded the shared use path network to include both sides of 52nd Avenue with a crossing over Drain 27. It also connected dead ends of the trail back into the network. Pedestrians can now safely travel to and from the new elementary school in the Deer Creek community along a designated path with fewer interactions with motorists.
Easing Traffic Flows
To address access concerns for pedestrians and drivers, traffic signals were installed at two key intersections (63rd Street and Veterans Boulevard). Before this project there were no traffic signals, so pedestrians and motorists had almost no indication of oncoming traffic.
These signalized intersections provide pedestrians with protected crossings and allow motorists to enter and exit the Deer Creek community without having to navigate busy cross traffic. An extra lane and signal modifications were also completed at the intersection of 45th Street South, one of south Fargo’s key north-south roadways. This project successfully introduced Restricted Crossing U-Turns (RCUTs) to Fargo.
The addition of three new RCUTs provide a very important value to 52nd Avenue South because they reduce the number of vehicle conflict points for those merging onto/off the roadway. They were installed where traffic volumes did not justify a signaled intersection but were high enough that some form of traffic control infrastructure needed to be present. In the past, drivers on side streets could be trapped for long periods of time while attempting left-hand turns onto 52nd Avenue. The RCUTs allow drivers to make a right turn onto 52nd Avenue and then quickly make a U-turn at a designated spot.
While it may seem counterintuitive to send travelers in the opposite direction of their destination, during peak travel times the RCUTs provide a safe alternative to traditional four-lane traffic, avoiding several potential conflict points. RCUTs have been proven to significantly reduce vehicular collisions as well as the severity of those that occur.
To facilitate the four-lane expansion, an existing bridge was demolished and replaced with two new bridges. The bridges were designed to complement the surrounding area and feel like a piece of the neighborhoods, rather than just pieces of transportation infrastructure. The bridges span Drain 27, an important drain that flows from south of Fargo through the city and into the Red River. This drain is surrounded by heavy residential neighborhoods on either side of the area, and an extensive shared use trail system runs along it and throughout those neighborhoods.
Wave-like concrete designs were used along the sides of the bridges to reflect the nature of the water that runs under them. The pattern and staining on the bridges are clearly visible to all who travel near or under them along the shared use paths, making the bridges pleasant landmarks along the paths.
A Better Commuting Experience
Numerous, much-needed traffic and pedestrian improvements were made along more than 1.5 miles of 52nd Avenue South to help create a better commute for neighborhood residents. RCUTs now allow motorists on side streets to merge onto 52nd Avenue South more quickly and with fewer conflicts at one time; traffic signals help bring order and a smoother flow to key intersections; and a new at-grade pedestrian crossing provides a place for pedestrians going into/out of the Deer Creek community with a designated place to cross the busy 52nd Avenue South.
Several of HEI's staff who worked on this project live right in the neighborhoods it's designed to serve. We have great pride in our communities and always look forward to helping them grow.