A project to make changes to streets in downtown Jamestown may not be completed until the spring of 2021, according to the project engineer for Interstate Engineering.

The grant for the downtown street project, referred to as a "lane diet" or "road diet," was announced in July 2018. The project is now planned to go for bids this summer, said Ben Aaseth, project engineer for Interstate Engineering.

Aaseth said current project plans call for bid letting in May or June of this year and construction beginning in the late summer or fall. Construction timing would be left to the contractor but completion could extend to 2021.

The project plan calls for reducing the current four-lane street to three lanes, with one in each direction and a center turning lane. The project also reduces the number of traffic signals on First Avenue, often referred to as Main Street, and would add landscaping and pedestrian features.

"It is a project that will take some adjustment, some time, to get used to," said Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich. "It is so far down the road it is hard to think of anything but its completion. Our goal is to make it as palatable as possible to the people."

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The grant was part of an urban street project initiative with 80% of the funding coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation and 10% from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The remaining 10% is the obligation of the city of Jamestown for the estimated $3.1 million project.

"It is all dependent on the final cost (of the project) but about $310,000 (local cost) as it stands," Heinrich said. "The local share would go up if there are cost increases."

Heinrich said the federal and state shares of the grant are capped. Any project costs exceeding the $3.1 million grant will fall entirely on the city of Jamestown.

"We'd better keep this thing on budget," said Pam Phillips, member of the Jamestown City Council. "... To back out now would cost the city more than our portion going forward."

The grant is specifically dedicated to a First Avenue project and cannot be used for other city needs such as a new fire truck or other infrastructure, Heinrich said.

The Jamestown City Council removed pedestrian "bumpouts" from the side streets in December as a cost-containment measure. Bumpouts are extensions of the sidewalk across the parking lane making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross the street. The bumpouts on First Avenue are still part of the project benefiting pedestrians crossing First Avenue.

Aaseth said similar cuts could be made to landscape features such as benches and planters to save costs if needed.

Another cost factor will be the number of traffic signals included in the project, Heinrich said. Because what is known as First Avenue in Jamestown is part of U.S. Highway 281, the number and position of traffic signals are controlled by the NDDOT.

"The city has no control over traffic signals (on First Avenue)," Heinrich said. "If one (of the existing) signals failed, we couldn't replace it even at our own expense."

Current plans call for one traffic signal on First Avenue at the intersection with Third Street at Alfred Dickey Public Library. Heinrich said the city hopes to add one at Fourth Street North where N.D. Highway 20 intersects with First Avenue. Traffic projections forecast that the amount of traffic at that corner will reach a level warranting a traffic signal in the future.

The final decision on the second turn signal will be made by NDDOT and would be included in the final design that Aaseth said will be developed after the City Council approves the preliminary plans later in January or in February.

Jamestown officials recognize the changes to First Avenue will be difficult for some people to understand.

"The idea of three lanes downtown will take some getting used to," Phillips said, "but we can't always be what we've been."

Phillips said the goal of the project is to move people through Jamestown more efficiently.

"I'm aware there are some adjustments people will have to get used to," Heinrich said. "Hopefully, we find it will work very well."