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Bismarck’s Main Avenue four-to-three-lane conversion project is moving forward. The city commission on Tuesday awarded the project to Strata Corporation, which placed the low bid of $1.65 million.

The commission tabled the action at its last meeting after the low bid came in higher than the initial project estimate of $1.1 million.

Last summer, the city accepted $700,000 in Urban Grant Program funding from the North Dakota Department of Transportation to assist with permanently converting Main Avenue, from Mandan Street through Sixth Street, to three lanes, as approved by commissioners in January 2018.

Pavement markings, traffic signal modifications, vehicle and pedestrian actuation and curb ramp improvements to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are included in the project.

Driving up the cost, according to City Engineer Gabe Schell, is the poor condition of the traffic signals and the need to replace them, rather than making minor modifications as outlined in the initial project scope. The traffic signal improvements came in at a cost of $1 million.

On Tuesday, Schell presented the commission the option of not awarding the project to Strata Corporation, to allow for a redesign and new bid letting.

The revamped project would include using the existing pretimed signal system, which, according to Schell, would not improve the progression of traffic on Main Avenue.

In addition, the signal standards and controllers will still need to be replaced at some point in the future, he said. Kicking the can down the road could come at an even higher cost.

“I still have a little bit of heartburn with the dollar amount, but I understand that even if we don’t do anything with the traffic signals … it’s going to cost us a lot more down the road,” said Commissioner Steve Marquardt.

Mayor Steve Bakken, who cast the lone dissenting vote, suggested leaving Main Avenue four lanes and moving forward with the signal optimization.

“Previously I was never almost in as many accidents as I currently am now,” he said. “And usually it’s people trying to merge in at the last minute or blocking intersections as the light has changed and you can’t turn left onto Main.”

The city's estimated share on the project, including engineering and contingencies, is $1.3 million, according to Schell.

The project is expected to get underway this construction season, with final completion in 2020.

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.)​

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