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Baxter looks at future transportation challenges and opportunities

BAXTER — Motorists should plan for alternate routes next summer as Jackson and parts of Excelsior Road are reconstructed.

After numerous discussions on plans for street projects, Baxter City Council members met in special session Wednesday night to finalize projects for the next two years and look at what should be included in the five-year plan.

The council agreed it will pursue the Excelsior Road project from Cypress Drive, just east of SuperOne Foods, to the city limits with Brainerd in 2015.

Plans will be to complete the next phase from Cypress Drive west to Highway 371 in 2016. And the Cypress Drive extension with roundabout is planned for 2018.

Earlier the council had considered doing the entire Excelsior Road in one year instead of two phases.

Public Works Director Trevor Walter said he liked the idea of getting it all done in one season, but taking out the whole corridor makes it hard to access. There’s a need for one end or the other for access to those businesses along Excelsior Road.

As for the intersection of Excelsior and Golf Course Drive, Walter said he thinks the patterns are going to change pretty drastically once the signal light moves from Golf Course and Highway 210 to the future Cypress Drive crossing. Walter said he thinks the four-way stop sign will continue to function once Cypress is rebuilt.

The next step is securing the railroad crossing for Cypress to be able to extend across Highway 210.

“If we don’t get the railroad crossing, do we still do it?” Mayor Darrel Olson said.

“Have we heard from the railroad yet outside of ‘no?’” Council member Jim Klein asked.

“They have sent the verbal message it will be no,” said Administrator Gordon Heitke, adding the city will have a definitive answer well in advance of starting the project.

“The next step is for us all to sit down together and lay it all out,” Walter said, adding he think the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will still be in favor.

“Is it still the right plan? I believe that it is. I think our traffic studies are still valid today,” Walter said.

Olson questioned how MnDOT couldn’t still be on board as the signal light is set up on a temporary swinging cord at the Golf Course Drive and Highway 210.

Anyone who saw traffic on Highway 371 this past Memorial Day weekend, will see the need for parallel corridors, Walter said.

Walter recommended moving work on Conservation Drive up two years to 2015, including the planned trail on the southwest side to link to the Northland Arboretum. This trail would create a loop back to the Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge off Fairview Road.

Commissioner Todd Holman asked if rebuilding Fairview Road should be included as well and adding it for 2016 or 2017. Moser said it makes sense.

President of the Country Club Estates Association along Golf Course Drive wondered how the assessments may be handled. The city expects it to be by property owner and not the association.

Jeremy Vacinek, finance director, said the improvements would likely be determined by looking at linear foot costs for the frontage and dividing it by the number of individual units in the association. Part of Golf Course Drive has curb and gutter, part does not. One of the questions for the council was whether it wanted to make it consistent for the entire stretch. On the ends, Golf Course Road is curb and gutter then there is a stretch of rural road in the middle without curbs.

“It would be really nice to rebuild it as a 10-ton road,” Walter said of replacing the road instead of just a mill and overlay. Golf Course Drive is slated now for work in 2016.

Two areas of the storm-sewer pipe have collapsed and failed. Holman said it would be nice to know what the costs are for lights there as well. Holman said traffic is helped by consistent lighting and curb and gutter. Holman, a bicyclist and proponent of bike lanes in the city, asked about a paved shoulder and again how wide the city needs to make the street to get an official bike lane.

Walter recommended getting a feasibility study for the road in order to get a cost estimate for the homeowners on Golf Course Drive. “We’ve never done one for this area,” Walter said.

Plans are for a mill and overlay north of the Country Club Estates entrance with curb and gutter to the south. Consensus from the council was to get a feasibility study.

Don Waxberg, Country Club Estates Association president asked about a possible roundabout at Golf Course Drive and Clearwater Road. Walter said that there haven’t been studies nor has a signal light been there. With Cypress opened up on 210, Waxberg said traffic will change there at that intersection.

“I’m really disappointed that you guys didn’t buy the golf course,” Waxberg said.

Olson said the $5 million price tag was too much and a survey of residents was for the purchase until they were asked if they were willing to pay for it.

Commissioner Mark Cross was absent.

The council also met in closed session to discuss land acquisition and right of way easements related to the Woida, Franklin, Wildflower project.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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