Baxter looks at transportation priorities and five-year plan
BAXTER — New ways to drive, walk and bike through Baxter were discussed during a lengthy transportation discussion.
Among projects on the short list that were discussed at Wednesday’s city council meeting:
• Council members looked at whether it was financially feasible to include water and sewer with an Eagle Drive and Eagle Ridge Drive street project and ultimately decided to push the project back a year to 2016. Because the area has small density to bring the assessments to a $14,000 range means a city subsidy of at least $1 million.
• Dellwood/Inglewood. Planned for construction in 2015 as a cooperative project with Crow Wing County. There was concern about the timing with the county’s plan to complete a comprehensive plan for Unorganized Territory and if the county will support a 10-ton roadway. Baxter kept a placeholder for the project, acknowledging it won’t be able to know what those numbers will be for its portion of the cost.
• Sidewalks along Edgewood Drive and Dellwood Drive. The city considered a feasibility for development of sidewalk corridor but wondered if it would be feasible as it would require disrupting existing landscaping, taking out trees and parking spaces for businesses in the corridor. It would also add costs for snow removal. The city doesn’t have a sidewalk ordinance.
“The reality is going to be we are going to have some things that we can’t fix,” Mayor Darrel Olson said, noting expansion of the highway to four lanes and service drives that moved toward businesses. “Sometimes the road came to people and we have to work with what we got. That’s just the way it is.”
Moser said he’d like to continue to keep looking at connections in the back as Holman noted has been done by the North Pointe Centre.
• Potential bridge crossing of Highway 371 to link the Paul Bunyan State Trail with the Clearwater Trail to Whipple Beach.
“That’s an amazing piece of connectivity if we can do it,” Council member Todd Holman said.
The Excelsior Bridge came after the city applied for a grant at state and federal levels. It started with a Blandin grant that helped fund the feasibility study. Holman suggested a similar study for the Highway 371 crossing. Another consideration is a connection across Highway 210 by the elementary school as part of the Safe Routes to School. Consensus from the council was to move forward with a study in 2015.
• Relocating signal lights from Knollwood to Inglewood/210. Holman suggested the discussion as he thinks it will be an issue earlier than five years and it wasn’t on the five-year plan. The railroad gave preliminary approval as long as the Knollwood crossing was closed. Klein was concerned about eliminating a crossing at Knollwood for school children. Public Works Director Trevor Walter said that’s why two crossings are important at Highway 48 and Inglewood.
“If you want to get kids to bike and walk to school you need safe crossings,” Walter said.
Holman said a framework is there for a controlled signal light at Memorywood and at Inglewood would provide a signal light crossing with a bridge in the middle. Walter said a crossing was needed and Knollwood provided the initial path of least resistance so a grant was used to make a crossing there. There is little traffic coming into Knollwood on the north side, making it an under-used signal intersection, Holman said.
Olson said he knows in his head what the right thing to do but his heart hasn’t come along that far and he wanted to look at the full list of things the city needs to do first. Maybe if that project didn’t drain the city and there was money left to do other things, he may feel differently about it, Olson said.
“I agree you can’t do all this stuff, you will need to set priorities,” said Gordon Heitke, city administrator. “Maybe a decision process by the end of the year.”
• An east Fairview Road connection, where it ends in a cul-de-sac, north to Edgewood Drive at Excelsior west of Highway 371. The discussion also included suggestions to move Edgewood farther west. The project was added to the 2019 list.
• Pursuing a future Paul Bunyan Trail route through the city at the Hastings corridor was listed as something to keep in mind.
• Connecting Cypress Drive from College South to Highway 48 was suggested for the project list for 2019 to complete the corridor. Council member Rob Moser said he always felt Cypress could be done in segments from Highway 49 to Highway 48. “These are all big projects,” Moser said of adding the project in segments, adding 2019 isn’t far away, but he understood looking at it now.