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First details of 371/S. 6th Street project discussed

In a couple of years, Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street will have a new look.

Just how much change is up to residents and the city of Brainerd.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) will do a complete revamp of the road - from Joseph Street to Highway 210 - in 2017.

Up for discussion is the number of lanes to give the highway. Currently, the five-lane roadway decreases to three lanes closer to Highway 210 (That includes one lane for turning).

At a Brainerd Planning Commission meeting Monday, Jim Hallgren, project manager with MnDOT, said the city could eliminate two lanes on the current five-lane road, making the whole stretch three lanes.

There are pros and cons to the idea, said Brainerd Assistant City Engineer Jesse Freihammer. Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the subject in an informational meeting in a few weeks, which is yet to be scheduled.

Going down to a three-lane road is becoming more popular among cities, Freihammer said.

"It could make it more biker- and walker-friendly," he said.

With a five-lane road, however, there's a higher capacity for vehicles. The capacity of a five-lane road is about 33,500 vehicles per day, while the capacity for a three-lane road is up to 18,000 vehicles per day.

The current volume is about 12,000 vehicles a day traveling on the road.

In 17 to 30 years, the road will likely be at capacity if it is three lanes, Hallgren said, and road delays will start popping up.

Other pros and cons include:

Three lanes:

• Fewer right of way impacts to property owners.

• Wider travel lanes.

• Eliminates business relocation.

• Reduces construction and right of way costs.

Five lanes:

• Small change from current roadway configuration.

• Fifteen feet wider; 27 percent more impervious surfacing.

• Reduced lane widths (12-foot lanes to 11-foot lanes).

• Additional right of way acquisition.

• Removal of about 77 trees.

• One potential business relocation.

• Up to five residential entrance rearrangements.

Business Highway 371/South Sixth Street was first constructed in 1957. Since, there have been a handful of resurfacing projects, the most recent in 2009.

The ride quality index given by MnDOT rates the road at a 2.8. Roads that rate below a 3.0 are typical for reconstruction projects.

"It needs a bigger fix than what a simple overlay would do," Hallgren said.

The road will continue to deteriorate over the next several years, along with catch basins, storm sewer, curb and gutter, and sidewalk, he said.

The existing sidewalk doesn't meet accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Hallgren added.

Ed Shaw, a member of the city's ad-hoc Walkable/Bikeable Committee, said the group thinks a three lane road would be a good choice.

"The current configuration is not good for anyone not in a vehicle," he said. "It's shaky at best for pedestrian use."

Planning Commission member Sarah Hayden agreed that three lanes would be a good choice because of the historic buildings downtown, which were designed "for foot traffic, not for vehicle access to the businesses."

Coinciding with MnDOT's project, the city will do a complete replacement of sanitary sewer and water mains along the route, Freihammer said.

The city will likely also extend MnDOT's project to Industrial Park Road with either a six-foot wide sidewalk or eight-foot wide trail on the east side of the street. That would connect the existing Buffalo Hills trail with sidewalk all the way to Washington Street.

Project timeline:

Public input: Summer 2014

Preferred alternative: Fall 2014

Final layout: Fall 2014

Municipal consent: Fall/winter 2014

Environmental documentation: Winter-summer 2015

Final design: Winter-fall 2016

Acquire right of way: Winter-fall 2016

Let project for bi: Fall 2016

Reconstruction: Spring-fall 2017