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