Weather Forecast


Additional $1.5M recommended for College Drive

In an effort to use all federal money allocated for the College Drive reconstruction, the College Drive project management team on Tuesday recommended an additional $1.5 million in options for the project.

The options include:

Building out the intersection of Crow Wing County Road 48 and College Road in Baxter to include reconstruction, extended lanes and widen to the north in Baxter, a new signal system, storm sewer improvement and a dual left onto College Drive.

The estimated cost of the option is $1,087,000 and would be funded through $736,000 in federal funds, $256,000 from Crow Wing County and $95,000 from Baxter.

Using federal funds to pay for 80 percent of the estimated $169,000 cost for corridor lighting for College Drive. Federal money would cover about $114,700 and Brainerd Public Utilities would pay about $54,300 for the lights.

Additions to the intersection at South Fifth and Quince streets to include replacing pavement from Quince Street to Business 371/South Sixth Street, replacing the pavement of South Fifth to Pine streets and mill and overlay of South Fifth Street from Pine to Oak streets.

The estimated cost of that option is $314,200, with federal funds picking up $213,000 and local state aid picking up $101,200.

If approved by the respective units of government, the total cost of the project would go from about $6.9 million to $8.4 million. About $1 million in federal funding wasn't being used.

The proposals were offered by the project management team Tuesday. Members of the team include city staff; Brainerd City Council members Bob Olson, Lucy Nesheim and Bonnie Cumberland; and consulting engineers. Several others attended Tuesday's meeting, including public utilities staff, Central Lakes College and Brainerd High School representatives, affected property owners and other members of the public.

The options will be considered by Baxter and Brainerd city councils on Tuesday. Rob Hall, Crow Wing County assistant highway engineer, said reconstructing the intersection has long been in the highway department's plans.

Ron Bray of WSB and Associates, the city's consulting engineer on the project, noted that the three proposals would put the total project about $130,000 over the $4,334,300 in federal funding available. An option could have been removing the street lights as an option and having public utilities pick up the total cost, but the management team instead approved all three options in hopes that bids from the project cost will come in lower than expected. If not, he said the lighting could be pulled out of the project.

"Needless to say, if we expanded the project I'll say we'd have no problems spending the federal money," Bray said.

"I'm not commenting," quipped Olson, which elicited laughs from those in attendance. Olson voted against the $6.9 million project because of its steep cost but with its approval has vowed to work to make it the best project possible.

Nesheim said one thing that hasn't been stated is the jobs and benefits to community vendors the project will bring.

"This is going to be a big benefit to the community," Nesheim said. "You have to look at that, too." Olson agreed with Nesheim.

City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said staff and the consulting engineers have used conservative cost estimates for the project. Being the biggest project scheduled to start in 2011 in central Minnesota he believed the bids would be favorable to the city.

"The last I think we want is to tell the council that we got a $6.9 million project, go out for bids and come back at $7.4 (million dollars)," Hulsether said.

In a split vote Dec. 6, the Brainerd City Council approved the $6.9 million College Drive project to include four lanes from Crow Wing County Road 48 to South Fourth Street; roundabouts at Mississippi River Parkway, Southwest Fourth Street and South Fourth Street; a stop light at Quince and South Fifth streets; trails; sidewalks; bridge improvements; pedestrian crosswalks, flashers and deterrents; and a backage road to accommodate the apartment buildings.

On Dec. 15 the city was served with a notice that the owners of the Colonywood Apartments along College Drive intended to appeal in district court the validity of a petition the city received for the project from Central Lakes College administrators.

The project schedule includes council consideration of the scope on Tuesday, having the project design back to the city council by the second meeting in March, right-of-way and other documents approved by April 15, bid the project in late July with construction starting in September. A majority of the construction, with the most traffic impacts, is expected to be in 2012. Completion is tentatively set for November of 2012.

Hulsether said eminent domain documents have been filed and are being served by City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick. Bray said the filings were not done to be hostile but only to make sure the city meets the April 15 deadline for obtain right-of-way for the project. He said the city will continue negotiating with property owners.

MATT ERICKSON may be reached at or 855-5857.