All roads open

Minot’s downtown infrastructure project substantially complete after 3 years of construction

City Engineer Lance Meyer stands at the intersection of Third Avenue Southwest and First Street Thursday to announce the substantial completion of the three-year downtown infrastructure improvements project. Jill Schramm/MDN

All streets and avenues are open downtown as a three-year infrastructure reconstruction project reached substantial completion Thursday morning.

The $30 million project replaced miles of water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer pipes, concrete paved street, curb and gutters, sidewalks and street lighting.

“This might seem like just another project, but when you look at the scope of what we undertook,” City Engineer Lance Meyer said, “that’s a massive undertaking. It’s the largest reconstruction project the city has ever done.”

A ribbon cutting on the completion of the project is planned for early October. The city will recognize the efforts of all those involved, including the North Dakota congressional delegation for securing federal funding that covered nearly half the overall cost.

Only the Central Avenue intersection with Broadway remains closed, due to construction to replace the Broadway Bridge. That separate project is in the first year of two years of construction.

“Every other road we have is open, accessible,” Meyer said at a downtown news conference Thursday. “So, hopefully, the headache is over for all the businesses downtown.”

“It’s been a tough three years businesswise to get through the construction, but it’s something that needed to happen,” said Cookies for You owner Mary Helen Hasby. “But I am glad to be at the end of it and get back to normal, and I think when people come downtown and shop, they will see how beautiful the streets are. The people who have stayed away the last three years because of construction, I hope they come back down and see how pretty it is.”

Chris Lindbo, a downtown property and business owner, said he has been investing in the downtown in anticipation of interest that will be occurring with the completion of the construction.

“I think it’s enticing for everybody. It’s enticing for the customers to come down. It’s going to be enticing for the investors to come down. It’s kind of the start of the revitalization of our downtown like other downtowns have done all over the country,” Lindbo said. “I think investors are going to see that and want to take advantage of the opportunities sooner rather than later.”

“It’s a great thing for downtown to be able to have all new infrastructure,” said Roger Reich, president of the Downtown Business & Professional Association. “It was a long process, but I believe the contractors and the city and everybody that was involved tried their best to make it as painless as possible for the businesses and people in the downtown community. Even with that, yes, we are happy that it’s done. I think it looks really great.”

Meyer said people can expect occasional, temporary lane closures over the next few weeks as contractors complete incidental work such as installing final street lighting. Contractors should fully finish in a month, he estimated.

Contractors will be back next year to replace some concrete street panels. Meyer explained the concrete in spots appears to have cured too fast in the summer heat, which now is resulting in flaking. Repair work is covered under the project’s two-year warranty and will result in only temporary street closures in those few areas where panel replacement is needed.

Meyer credited merchants for using the infrastructure project as an opportunity to enhance the downtown atmosphere with new trees, flowers, benches and art.

Changes resulting from the infrastructure project that motorists might notice include the elimination of five traffic signals downtown. Meyer said the intersections didn’t warrant signals based on traffic counts so it wasn’t prudent to spend millions of dollars to re-install them.

Instead, four-way stop signs now exist at intersections with Main Street at Central and Second Avenues. Stop signs also exist on Third and First Avenues where they intersect with Main Street.

Meyer described the three-year project impacting 26 blocks as one of the largest projects in the state. At a meeting in Bismarck last week on the governor’s Main Street Initiative, Meyer said it was clear Minot’s experience with such a large project will be sought out by other cities interested in similar downtown reconstruction.

Meyer said the city learned a great deal the first year about balancing contractor flexibility with deadlines. The city tightened its deadlines in later years, and it made a difference in how quickly streets were re-opened, he said.

Feedback from residents about the bump-outs at the Central and Main Street intersection also led to design changes at other Main Street intersections to soften those bump-outs and create a better design for motorists and pedestrians.

“This is the first time we had done bump-outs. I think they turned out really well,” Meyer said.

Feedback from residents also led to the four-way stops downtown. Meyer said traffic levels only warranted two-way stops, but motorist expectations and perceptions needed to be taken into account, which led to adding more signs.

Minot began designing the downtown infrastructure project in 2013. Strata Corp. completed the work in 2015, Keller Paving and Landscaping in 2016 and Wagner Construction in 2017. This year’s phase was completed about a month early.

Houston Engineering was the design engineer and construction management team.

The project was initiated due to the aging of the 100-year-old infrastructure. Some of that infrastructure not only serves downtown but includes a trunk system serving part of south Minot. Meyer said the 2011 flood put stress on certain parts of that infrastructure. The design of the project incorporated features of flood protection that will save about $3 million in construction of the larger Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection Project, he said.