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Expect gridlock: I-94 repair through Fargo could begin Monday

FARGO – Prepare for gridlock. Interstate 94 is getting a much-needed facelift through Fargo this summer, and work on the roughly $3 million project could start Monday.

Lanes will be closed from Ninth Street East in West Fargo all the way to the Red River, and state Department of Transportation officials expect traffic to be backed up on I-94 even farther – from Sheyenne Street in West Fargo to Eighth Street in Moorhead.

Speeds will be reduced to 40 mph throughout the construction zone.

“I think you can expect (gridlock) at times,” said Kevin Gorder, assistant district engineer for the Transportation Department in Fargo.

I-94 traffic will be reduced by one lane in each direction for the entire span of the project, Gorder said. One lane will be open in each direction from Ninth Street in West Fargo to Interstate 29. Two lanes will be open in each direction from I-29 to the Red River. The shoulder will be used as a lane for the eastern stretch.

Traffic cones could show up on I-94 starting Monday at the earliest, Gorder said. Work could extend into fall, depending on the weather, although the Transportation Department hopes to be done by late August.

“If we have a summer like last summer, it’s gonna fly by,” Gorder said. “If the summer continues the way it’s been so far this year, it may be October. I don’t know.”

The biggest delays will likely occur on I-94 to the west of I-29, “Especially in the morning,” Gorder said.

He said crews will work on Saturdays to accelerate the project.

At the same time, crews will repaint the I-94 pedestrian overpass bridge just west of University Drive in Fargo. The bright blue, caged bridge, well-known to I-94 commuters, hasn’t been painted since the late 1970s.

Its color will be changed to a dark forest green. To paint it, crews will have to wear protective suits and hang tarps down to the interstate, Gorder said.

“There’s a chance there’s lead-based paint on that bridge,” he said. “It was repainted in 1978, and that was about the time they were getting away from all that stuff, so we don’t know.”

The old paint will be collected, tested and disposed of properly, Gorder said. There are no structural problems with the bridge, but if it’s not repainted soon, corrosion could begin, he said.

The painting job will take seven to nine weeks of really nice weather, Gorder said, which means low humidity, no rain and relatively warm temperatures. Painting crews and road crews will work together so only one lane on I-94 is closed in each direction near the pedestrian bridge, he said.

Crews will also fix the tri-level bridge that merges southbound I-94 to eastbound I-29, and some work will be done to smooth out a recognizable “dip” on the I-94 bridge over Fifth Street.

The last time I-94 was completely rehabbed was in 1993, and its expected lifespan is about 30 years, Gorder said.

Preventive concrete repair usually happens every 10 years. The last time a concrete repair was done like what is planned this summer was in 2003, Gorder said.

“That’s the goal,” he said. “We want 10 years out of this repair.”

A total reconstruction of I-94 would cost millions of dollars and be a significant impact to the public, Gorder said.

Article written by Erik Burgess of the Forum News Service

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