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Main Avenue Reconstruction-Bismarck, ND
By Jason P. Gullides, P.E., Ulteig Engineers, Inc.

A seven-block stretch of Main Avenue, through the heart of downtown Bismarck, North Dakota, was reconstructed in the summer of 2001. The deteriorated roadway pavement was more than 50 years old and many of the municipal utilities were as old or older. The project was on and off for many years before being resurrected in 1997. Many unique items were associated with its development, including historic features, structural integrity of adjacent buildings, streetscaping, and just finding space for everything.

This portion of Main Avenue is within a Historic District currently listed on the National Registry. The Historic District contains 77 primary buildings and structures. Twenty-seven of these buildings not only contribute to the district, but have a high level of integrity and possess exceptional historic or architectural value. Of these 27 buildings, 11 are located along Main Avenue. Mitigation required because of the impact on the Historic District included rehabilitative work at the Camp Hancock Historic Site, decorative lighting and benches, and colored and textured concrete crosswalks.

Camp Hancock, a North Dakota State Historic Site, was the site of a U.S. Infantry Post in charge of protecting the Northern Pacific Railroad workers in 1872. It was maintained until 1877 when it was used as a Quartermaster Depot and Signal Office. In 1894, the site was converted for use as the Bismarck Weather Bureau Station. By 1899, almost all of the military structures had been removed except for two Officer Quarter buildings. When the Weather Bureau moved to a new facility in 1940, only one of the original Camp Hancock buildings remained. This surviving building is the Surgeon's Quarters, and it remains a good reminder of frontier times in Bismarck. The stone foundation of this building is more than 125 years old and was not structurally sound prior to construction. Therefore, before any construction was allowed within 150 feet of the site, the interior of the existing stone foundation wall had to be tuck-pointed and shotcreted to become stable. To keep part of the original foundation visible, an observation window was installed. Also, a 300-foot portion of the 100-year-old fieldstone fence around Camp Hancock was dismantled and reconstructed on a reinforced, concrete footing. Each stone on the north face was labeled and recorded to ensure its reinstallation in its original location. The mortar for the tuck-pointing and rebuilding of the stone fence was developed to match color and texture of the original mortar.

Because of the poor condition of various stone, block, and concrete building foundations along the project, the owner and contractor were required to monitor these foundations for movements. For the removal of the existing concrete, a resonant-type breaker was specified to minimize the affects on these foundations. In addition, all sidewalks and driveways adjacent to buildings were saw cut into manageable pieces and lifted away. With these precautions in place, no problems with foundations were encountered during the construction activities.

The streetscaping along Main Avenue was coordinated with a previous downtown project done by the City Center Partnership. It consisted of decorative street and pedestrian lights, more than 20 varieties of trees and shrubs, and decorative concrete benches. Traffic signals and street lights were specified to be earth tone in color to blend into the downtown area. The pedestrian lights were decorative concrete poles with a metal top that resembles a wheat stalk with two banner arms. They also included festoon outlets so the poles could be wrapped with decorative lighting during the holiday season. The challenge was to fit these items into the limited sidewalk space. It was necessary to keep the lighting uniform, separate the trees from the lights, and locate trees and lights so they did not block business signs, showroom windows, or doorways. Water and sewer service locations had to be considered with placement of the lights and trees to prevent conflicts with these utilities.

The project has restored a refreshing atmosphere to Main Avenue with the improved roadway, streetscaping, and lighting and will serve the city of Bismarck for many years.

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