TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Don’t Build The Convention Center Downtown

The creation of the new 400-plus parking ramp on Roberts Street in Fargo does not impact whether the proposed convention center should be built downtown. Most of its space has been rented to tenants.

That should provide some relief to existing businesses that hope that the ramp will at least take employee parking off the streets and allow for more customer parking and access.

Add the proposed Block Nine high-rise west of First Bank and Broadway, and there will already be more need to accommodate the occupants of the new building — but less parking, since it will occupy what’s now a lot.

An aside: Some serious thinking needs to go into downtown before any decision is made going forward. Consider that ugly new floodwall along Second Street North. It blocks what was a beautiful view of the Red River. I know it’s now too late now to speculate — coulda, woulda, shoulda — but wouldn’t it have been nice to raise the road to the height of the wall, preserving the natural beauty while still providing the essential flood protection? If I had to define “ugly,” that wall would qualify. (This comment on the wall also endears me to my wife, Maureen, who planted the seed in my mind.)

So, then, let’s consider the impact of putting the convention center downtown. Assuming it will be as widely used and contribute as predicted to the overall economy of the city, easy and convenient access will be essential. Think for just a moment what would happen downtown if all of the current traffic from the Fargodome were to be diverted there! We can quickly conclude there would not be sufficient roadway access and parking to accommodate it.

Even if our city planners stood on their heads and planned for eons, no plan could be possibly be developed that didn’t disrupt and partially destroy neighborhoods. New and improved access roads would be absolutely required. Ultimately, we’d need to build the largest parking facility on the planet to accommodate the needs of the folks who would use it.

I’m not suggesting that the Fargodome site on the North Dakota State University campus is necessarily the best spot for the center — just that downtown would not suffice and ought to be excluded from consideration.

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While on the subject of traffic, I have my own little ax to grind. My home overlooks Elephant Park, aka Percy Godwin Park. I’m on the curve on 18th Avenue North, and no amount of money could replace our view.

The best soccer in the area is played there evenings, regardless of weather, by a group of really good players. (I think they attend North Dakota State University, but this might just be a group of men who love the game.) They are as courteous a group of men as I have ever known.

Whenever the soccer ball ends up in my yard, they always offer me an apology that I don’t need. I’ve told them that if the ball bounces into my yard, just come through the gate and get it … no permission necessary. Yet they always ask.

Now to my point: There’s no parking on the curve where they play, but they do attract onlookers. At the same time, many walkers and bikers — both children and adults — move around it. I’ve seen parents pushing baby strollers along that stretch with other children walking or biking ahead of them.

Unfortunately, some true donkeyholes also use that road and apparently drive with blinders on. Pedestrians entering from the north can’t see oncoming cars and vice versa, which creates a really hazardous situation. In the winter, the jeopardy is even worse; we’ve actually witnessed speeding cars slide off the road and down the hill.

Our neighborhood has asked the city to install speed bumps and reduce speeds to 15 or 20 mph. The most they’ve done is to install “no parking” signs in the area … which are usually ignored.

The speed limit on the wide open road on Edgewood Drive in North Fargo is 20 mph, and it has speed bumps. When those speed bumps are installed, they do just what they are supposed to do: They slow traffic waaaay down.

I hold my breath when pedestrians and motorized vehicles meet each other along that curve. And I ask myself: Will it take the death or injury of a pedestrian, probably a child, to get the city to do something about this obvious hazard?

There’s no sense in adding more police patrols; everyone slows down when police are present but ignores the limit when they’re not. But the same holds true all the time when a speed bump is installed. Everyone slows down!

* * *

Since I’m on the subject of traffic, I wonder whether the city’s sound ordinances have been eliminated. All kinds of trucks, cars and motorcycles have modified mufflers — or none at all. When their drivers so desire, they stomp on gas and create deafening noise on purpose. Some of these scofflaws are in high school, some in college; some work at the Veterans Administration Hospital, and other just drive around thinking that making noise means they’re cool.

I’ve always found it odd that a decibel meter can lead to a ticket for vehicle noise or unlawful equipment … but dealers can still sell mufflers (or otherwise modify them) that are quiet if you drive correctly, but sound like a jet taking off on one cylinder if you stomp on the gas.

It’s a problem all over town. Park on any corner near West Acres and count the number of loud, noisy or defective mufflers passing by. Pickup trucks rank No. 1. I’m not just talking about junkers. The modified late-models are enough easy to spot. They’re followed by cars, No. 2 and — in third place — motorcycles.

It would not take a patrol officer long to direct many of these noisemakers into Fargo Municipal Court or (or in the case of sheriff’s deputies and the highway patrol) into Cass District Court. Peace and quiet!

I do know none of our police officers spend their shifts letting dust gather under their feet. But every once in a while, everyone has quiet time. How better occupy it than to sit, listen and cite the noisemakers?

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Last but not least, since I’m on the subject of vehicles, I’ve noticed a lot of gals driving motorcycles wearing helmets and shorts — young men, too. While jeans may not provide much protection if you fall, shorts provide none at all. You can save a lot of skin if you find yourself sliding down the pavement just by dressing correctly.

And I still see many young adults riding double on cycles and scooters with neither wearing a helmet or other protective head gear. That ride may be fun with the wind in your hair, but one accident can turn that fun into a life-changing disaster. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to give a serious thought to safety.

With that, please note that I’ve not made even one political comment this week. Live with it! Amen.

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