One of the first steps this fall of the planned road diet project in Jamestown will be to change the paint stripes and markings on First Avenue to reflect the three lanes that are planned for the street rather than the current four lanes, according to Ben Aaseth, project engineer for Interstate Engineering.

The change could come in early October following the bid opening and awarding of the construction contract in August, he said.

"It would help eliminate conflict points for people crossing the (main) street," Aaseth said.

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The road diet will reduce the number of traffic lanes to one in each direction with a center turning lane on First Avenue and also Fifth Street North. Currently, both of those streets have two lanes of traffic in each direction. Reducing the number of lanes provides for wider traffic and parking lanes and is meant to improve the flow of traffic in the downtown area, Aaseth said.

The final project will include converting 5th Street Northwest to three-lane traffic, although that transition will not be made this fall but as part of the construction work next summer, Aaseth said.

"This becomes part of the actual project and the contractor that gets the bid will be responsible," said Travis Dillman, city engineer for Interstate Engineering, of the plan to change the paint stripes in the fall. "It is for safety through the winter with the traffic signals out."

While the new striping will change the traffic flow in Jamestown, work on the bumpouts at the corners and other features of the project will be done next summer and completed by early fall 2021, Aaseth said.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said the change to the striping is a matter of safety that he lobbied long and hard for.

In June, the North Dakota Department of Transportation shut down four of the five traffic signals on First Avenue. This has caused some difficulty for people traveling east or west on the cross streets who have to deal with four lanes of traffic on First Avenue.

"When people want to cross from east or west they will only have one lane of traffic in each direction to contend with," Heinrich said. "I've been hearing that people say it is tougher to see (oncoming traffic in) the inside lanes."

Aaseth said areas at each intersection will be painted with a cross-hatch pattern to indicate where bumpouts, extensions of the sidewalk into the street will be placed. These areas improve pedestrian safety by reducing the amount of street that pedestrians have to cross and improving their visibility.

Heinrich said the timing of the new striping and implementation of the road diet was important. He hoped that by making the changes in October, the traveling public in Jamestown would have a couple of months to get used to the new traffic patterns before possible snow and ice obliterate the striping from time to time.

Heinrich also said the number of traffic signals on First Avenue is controlled by NDDOT and they have determined that one, at 3rd Street South, at the Alfred Dickey Library, is the only signal the traffic on First Avenue warrants.

The NDDOT controls First Avenue because it is a segment of U.S. Highway 281.

Preliminary estimates for the road diet project are about $3 million with grants covering about 90% of the costs. The late addition of changing the lane striping this fall is estimated to add about $7,000 to the cost. Aaseth said they won't know until after bids are opened in August if the project will come in below or above estimates.

"The road diet will become reality," Heinrich said. "For financial and safety reasons we can't stop it now."