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Cypress Drive project on Baxter agenda Tuesday

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Cypress Drive is slated for construction in 2018 and 2019 with a roundabout planned to replace this intersection at Cypress Drive and Excelsior Road in Baxter. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 3
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BAXTER—Two years from now, driving patterns for lakes area residents are likely to undergo a substantial change as the Cypress Drive project is completed.

A resolution regarding ordering the preparation of plans for the 2018 construction project is anticipated at Tuesday's Baxter City Council session. Also on the agenda is a resolution preparing a report for the extension of Cypress Drive to connect farther north with Woida Road. The next step, if the council chooses, is to order the project and finalize plans and specifications, moving the project to a bid process. Additional public meetings would then be scheduled in the spring and summer of 2018.

Earlier this month, Baxter City Council members hosted an update on the project, which will serve as a parallel route to Highway 371 linking College Road to Clearwater Road on the city's eastern edge. Planning for this project stretches back more than a decade. It's expected to improve access to the city's industrial park to the south of Highway 210, shorten local trips, increase options for pedestrians and bicycle riders, and give local traffic an alternative to the bustling Highway 371. An obstacle has long been an ability to cross the BNSF Railway tracks. Extending Cypress Drive, now in two disconnected halves on either side of Highway 210, means crossing the railroad tracks not far from the Viking Land Harley-Davidson dealership and creating a new signal light intersection on Highway 210.

Cypress Drive ranges from a two-lane rural section of roadway from College Road to Industrial Park Road to a two-lane urban section from College Road to Hinkley Road and a full four-lane divided urban section from Excelsior Road to where it dead ends just past the Clearwater connection running west of the Paul Bunyan State Trail. The plans are to widen Cypress into a four-lane street with curb and gutter, create 5-foot bike lanes and a separated trail. Street lighting would be similar to what is on Excelsior Road. Two roundabouts would be created along Cypress at College Road and Excelsior Road, which is one of the city's busiest local streets with about 9,000 vehicles per day. Excelsior has deteriorated significantly west of the Cypress Drive connection as it stretches from SuperOne Foods to Highway 371. A street project for that stretch will be separate from the Cypress Drive project. Excelsior Drive to the east was reconstructed in 2015.

Cypress Drive currently has about 1,000 vehicles per day and expectations are it may eventually increase to 15,000 vehicles per day in future years with the new street and connections, although some at the public meeting thought that seemed far-fetched. Kevin Stumpf, Country Kitchen owner, noted his assessment was coming as his street access was changing. Fairview Road, which runs by Country Kitchen, will no longer extend out to connect with Cypress but will end with its access to SuperOne Foods. Others wondered about the costs for trails at the roundabout at Cypress and Excelsior when the Paul Bunyan State Trail was so close by. The trails indicated on the plan are to move bike traffic off the roundabout.

Other roads in the project's path, Industrial Park Road and Fairview Road, both with average daily traffic of 1,000 vehicles, are both listed in poor or deteriorated conditions. College Road, the five-lane road intersecting with Cypress Drive on the south side of the project, has an average count of 9,000 vehicles per day.

Plans include:

Removing the intersection lights at Golf Course Drive and Highway 210 and constructing a three-quarter intersection there instead, meaning vehicles would no longer be allowed to turn left from Golf Course Drive onto Highway 210.

Left and right turn lanes would be created at the new Cypress/Highway 210 intersection. Turn lanes would also be added to Industrial Park Road.

Proposed improvements include stormwater ponds near the Paul Bunyan State Trail. Multiple stormwater ponds are planned along Cypress from College Road to Industrial Park Road. Other improvements include sanitary sewer and water main to under- or un-served parcels.

The entire project is expected to cost $14.3 million. With the preliminary numbers, 13.6 percent of the total estimated project costs—or $1,954,830—will be assessed and the remaining 86.4 percent paid with other funding sources. Construction would start in June or July of 2018 and end in October of 2019.

At the public meeting earlier this month, concerns included the assessment to residents and senior citizens with a Greenwood Road resident saying it would double their taxes to over $7,000. There is an option to defer assessments until the property is sold, but interest would continue to accrue. There were additional questions on the speed limit, but a speed study can't be done until the street is constructed.

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