11th Street Underpass MnDOT Digs In

Construction begins next week on the massive 11th Street underpass project — largest in Moorhead’s history. Completion is expected in late 2026. (Illustrations/Minnesota Department of Transportation.)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Construction officially begins Monday on the downtown railroad underpass that Moorhead has awaited for decades.
The underpass to divert traffic on 11th Street below the two railroad lines that bisect the city will get its official kick-off at 10 Saturday in the Armory Events Center, with a social hour and short presentation. Participants will then walk two blocks to the former Holland’s property at Center Avenue and 11th Street. There, members of the Minnesota Department of Transportation engineering staff will join Moorhead officials for a ceremonial ground-breaking at about 10:30.
As the shovels dig in, they’ll launch three years of construction that will in turn close the three main east-west thoroughfares through the city.
First Avenue North is in the construction cross-hairs for the duration of 2024. Crews will remove the pavement, then dig the northern end of the underpass beneath BNSF’s KO line, with work extending from Center to Second Avenue North. A portion of Second Avenue bordering 11th Street will also be closed this summer.
The southern half of the double-dip underpass — beneath the Prosper line – is scheduled for 2025, when the area from First Avenue across Center Avenue to Main takes its turn. The $122 million projects wrap up in 2026 at the south end across Main Avenue down to Second Avenue South.
The detour that will be in place for the duration will direct cross-town drivers along 14th Street North and back to Ninth Street along Fourth Avenue. Along with digging the passage under the two rail lines, the project includes replacement of underground utilities and construction of ADA-compliant passages for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“At no time will all three avenues be closed simultaneously,” MnDOT construction engineer Aundie Curtiss reassures drivers. Traffic will be rerouted to 14th Street. “It will take people a little time to get used to the detours, but once they work out their alternate route, traffic should have only minor delays.”
One of the first steps to be undertaken by Ames Construction has been demolition of the now-unoccupied businesses flanking 11th Street – the former Moorhead Exhaust and Moorhead Auto Center on First Avenue, along with one adjoining residence; the former locations of FRS, Holland Landscaping and a multi-tenant building on Center Avenue; and the former Reardon’s Office Supply, Dollar Tree and Glass Doctor structures along Main Avenue.
According to Curtiss, pavement removal for the northernmost grade separation beneath the BNSF is expected to begin in May. The crews will focus on 11th from Center Avenue to Second Avenue North. She predicts little disruption to residents of the nearby Simon Warehouse Lofts when pile-driving begins; a community liaison will work with them during that process.
In a somewhat novel move, MnDOT project manager Justin Knopf says an intense, unusual collaborative process was employed over recent months to minimize the risks inherent in such a large and complicated project. This is only the eighth time the state highway department has turned to this approach.
That approach is called CMGC, or “construction manager general contractor.” After weighing proposals by a number of firms, MnDOT chose Ames to fill that role, supplementing and amending the design created by its engineers with an eye to construction methods and pricing. Ames personnel have helped the department make informed decisions on design and staging based on their firsthand expertise – in this case, honed by Ames’ recent experience with the struggles to cope with the area’s difficult clay soil, the legacy of ancient Lake Agassiz.
“At the end of the day, everything comes down to safety,” Curtiss emphasizes. “An informed public is a safer public.” MnDOT plans to keep in touch with Moorhead residents through its project website at www.dot.state.mn.us/d4/projects/moorhead11thstunderpass. Residents can also sign up there for periodic email updates on the project.

Construction begins next week on the massive 11th Street underpass project — largest in Moorhead’s history. Completion is expected in late 2026. (Illustrations/Minnesota Department of Transportation.)

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