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Published April 26, 2012, 04:50 PM

UND Considering Big Change to University Avenue

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - University Avenue could become a pedestrian-only zone through the University of North Dakota campus.

By: Stacie Van Dyke, WDAZ

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - University Avenue could become a pedestrian-only zone through the University of North Dakota campus.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is studying University Avenue to determine whether or not it should be closed to traffic with the exception of buses.

"This car just flies out of nowhere," UND student Loni Muus said.

The hope is that reducing traffic through campus will cut down on collisions between cars and pedestrians.

"I've had some really bad experiences, like just now. A car just about hit me just now. It's irritating because they have cars, they can get around easier whereas us, we're walking everywhere," Muus said.

"There have been accidents on University Avenue already. It's a very busy street. It's the main thoroughfare for students to go from classes to resident halls," UND Facilities Management Director Larry Zitzow said.

The MPO is looking at the feasibility of turning University Avenue into a pedestrian mall, an idea that UND came up with two years ago in its climate action plan, aiming to reduce the university's carbon dioxide emissions.

"It's a very unique thing. Students are allowed to mill around on the street itself. It's a way for vendors and other things to display and to show," Zitzow said.

"I think it would be safer because you have kids walking in front of you, but at the same time it would be a pain getting to class if you live off campus like I do. When it's cold especially to get to class it would be a lot more difficult," UND student Dan Aakhus said.

Some University officials believe that would make more students inclined to ride the bus to class or walk if the weather allows.

"They don't always cross at the intersection so you slam on your brakes and I'm worried I'm going to get hit in my car and I don't want to hit a person crossing," UND student Emily Keen said.

"I've seen cars honk at students, I've seen cars just cut students off which is very dangerous," Muus said.

"I think it's worth looking at. It's a wonderful idea to think about, but it is a substantial change to our community and to the city of Grand Forks," Zitzow said.

At this point, the changes are just a recommendation. The MPO will conclude its study in February and have suggestions for the next steps.