Baxter looks at pedestrian crossing options with Excelsior Road project
BAXTER — Moving pedestrians safely in the Excelsior Road corridor had Baxter City Council members looking at options for crossings.
Tuesday, the council again considered plans for Excelsior Road construction in 2015 to tie-in with a Brainerd Jackson Street project.
Options included pushing the project back a year, changing the design plans, adding lighting, adding a bike lane, or doing all of Excelsior Road in one season instead of phases. About 80 percent of the street design work is complete.
While options abound, council members and staff agreed one thing is clear — the patched Excelsior won’t last much longer. In the end, the council agreed to continue the plan to do the Excelsior Road construction from Cypress Drive east to Brainerd in 2015 and leave Excelsior from Cypress Drive west until 2016.
During previous discussions, Council member Todd Holman asked about adding a more expensive curb and gutter design or a designated bike lane. After more research, the city learned a bike lane of less than 5 feet couldn’t be officially designated on a street covered by state aid dollars.
A variance would be needed for a lane less than 5-feet wide but WSB & Associates reported they are difficult to get. Adding a 5-foot bike lane would require widening the street and adding to the project cost.
Another option without widening the street included a narrow, striped shoulder of 3.5 feet with “share the road” signs to remind motorists of bicycles.
The council talked in depth about how to handle pedestrians moving from the Northland Arboretum to the Lakes 12 Theater parking area, which provides overflow parking for Arb events.
A pedestrian crossing with a flasher, similar to ones on College Drive in Brainerd, are activated when a person is waiting to cross or is in the crosswalk. The flasher signal is expected to cost about $29,000.
On the city’s future plan is extending the trail system from the Arboretum across Excelsior at the intersection of Conservation Drive. The trail would then connect with Fairview Road, which travels in front of Brothers Motorsports, and to the Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge. The goal is to give people a safer option than the busy Excelsior.
With that in mind, the council preferred to have an intersection crossing on the west side of the Excelsior and Conservation Drive intersection in order to connect with the planned trail on that side. A crosswalk on the east side could mean creating steps and a ramp to reach the higher elevation of the movie theater parking lot.
Mayor Darrel Olson said the city can’t compell people to use the slightly longer route for the crossing on the west side, but the crosswalk with flasher should make it more appealing.
As for increased lighting, the city could stagger streetlights on either side of Excelsior or put them all on one side of the street. To add streetlights on one side from Cypress Drive to Conservation Drive is projected to cost $125,292 and staggering them on both sides of the street costs $180,777. The lights would be at 250-foot intervals.
Excelsior Road turns into Jackson Street behind the Westgate Mall as the street moves from Baxter to Brainerd. In Brainerd, the lights are on one side of the street. After leaving lights from the businesses along Excelsior, drivers currently reach a dark stretch between the Westgate Mall and the Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge by Arbor Glen.
The average daily traffic count on Excelsior was 8,100 vehicles per day in 2011. Projections are for 13,770 vehicles a day by 2031. The current Excelsior design plan is for three lanes of traffic with a center left turn lane and right turn lanes at intersections.
The future design includes a roundabout at the Cypress Drive intersection in 2018. The council noted a roundabout at Golf Course Drive might be better suited to the traffic needs but would be difficult because of the business development already there and the right-of-way needs.
Waiting to work on Excelsior from Cypress Drive to the west until after the Cypress Drive extension happens in 2018 may help to see how traffic responds to the changes, but Trevor Walter, public works director, wasn’t sure the western leg of Excelsior leading to Highway 371 would last until 2019.