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Brainerd City Council: BHS traffic study reaches conclusion

The intersection of Pine and South Fifth streets factored as a central point of focus during the BHS traffic study. It posed as one of 18 locations mined for data in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The 2018 referendum looks to reshape more than Brainerd High School, as the interconnected roadways of downtown Brainerd are also likely to get a facelift should the district vote "Yes."

Tim Houle, a civil engineer and a vice president of Widseth Smith Nolting, gave a final update on the BHS traffic study Monday at the Brainerd City Council meeting—the culmination of extensive documentation and research to gauge the flow, efficiency and safety of streets students are likely to use or cross during their careers at the school.

Houle said the study began by collecting video documentation at 18 locations—intersections and parking lot access points adjacent to Brainerd High School or within that area of the transportation network. This data gathering constituted pedestrian and vehicle traffic numbers, as well as historical data.

Houle said the main areas are Fifth Street from Oak to Quince streets and Pine Street from South Sixth to South Fifth streets, as well as streets leading into and away from this area. Houle provided the engineering data and analysis of the impact to the transportation system due to possible changes to the streets. The data was collected by a review group of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the city of Brainerd and Brainerd Public Schools, though implementing that data in a tangible way is largely impossible until the results of the April 10 vote are in.

"Any preliminary designs or primary designs are going to come later, and that's dependent on the referendum," Houle added.

The traffic study analyzed 16 combinations of street closures and layouts, including one-ways and two-ways. Houle said the traffic study included pedestrian and vehicle traffic, formulating projections of 20 years of traffic.

The city of Brainerd, the Brainerd School District and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have three options to consider if they proceed with efforts to restructure the roadways in the vicinity of Brainerd High School.

• Option 1: Keep Pine Street and South Fifth Street open. Motorists would be able to travel in each direction on South Fifth Street for dropping students off. Quince Street would be widened and a double left turn lane would be added. Parking and green space would be added on the two city blocks to the east of BHS-North Campus—between Fifth and Sixth streets and between Quince and Oak streets.

• Option 2: Vacate Pine Street and keep South Fifth Street open. This would allow motorists to travel in both lanes on Fifth Street. The same two city blocks of green space and parking would be identical to Option 1, except Pine Street would be closed and become part of the parking and green space.

• Option 3: Keep Pine Street open and close the south half of South Fifth Street, making the north half a one-way. Included in this option would be to also widen Quince Street and make it a double left turn lane. The south half of South Fifth Street, which would be closed, would connect to the southern city block and serve as a bus drop-off, parking and green space. The north half of South Fifth Street, the one-way that would have motorists traveling north, would connect with the northern city block, serving as parking and green space. This northern city block is where the Lincoln Education Center currently sits.

Houle said there are several ways to help with traffic control on all the options, which include adding speed bumps, which are between 4-6 inches in height; speed humps, which are 3-4 inches in height, but 10-12 feet in length; and a speed table, which is 3-4 inches in height and 22 feet wide.

Request documents noted the South Fifth Street is a City Municipal State Aid System street and has to meet the criteria of a state aid street. In the request documents, it's noted that none of the options look to cause significant shutdowns or lags in traffic.