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Cypress Drive: Anticipating a changed future for traffic

Trevor Walter, Baxter public works director, points to a detailed map of the planned Cypress Drive project while speaking to residents at an open house Monday night at city hall. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch1 / 5
Baxter residents and business owners look through exhibits at an open house on the planned Cypress Drive project Monday at city hall. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch2 / 5
A rendering of the proposed Cypress Drive project shows a new crossing/intersection at Highway 210 and a roundabout where Cypress Drive meets Excelsior Road by Super One Foods in Baxter. 3 / 5
Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson listens to a participant during the Cypress Drive open house Monday at city hall. Renee Richardson/Brainerd Dispatch4 / 5
Maps, on display at the open house for Cypress Drive Tuesday, show a connected Cypress Drive crossing Highway 210. 5 / 5

BAXTER—There is little doubt the long-anticipated Cypress Drive connection across Highway 210 will change traffic patterns for Brainerd and Baxter.

Monday, owners of residential, commercial and industrial property, had a chance to look at plans in detail, view maps and learn more about estimated assessments. The informal open house setting gave property owners a chance to talk one-on-one with elected officials and staff members, as well as view the Cypress Drive corridor—spread across two long tables.

Cypress Drive currently has two lengths, one to the north and one to the south of Highway 210. Plans are to link those parts across the railroad tracks and put a new signal intersection at the Highway 210 crossing near Super One Foods. The signal intersection at Golf Course Drive, set up as a temporary intersection that became long term, would be taken down.

Phased over several years, the ultimate goal is to connect Cypress Drive north to Woida Road and then to Wise Road and south to Highland Scenic Drive, also known as Highway 48. This would create a parallel corridor to Highway 371, particularly for local traffic.

"I like the whole idea of the highway, of course it's going to increase traffic," said Jessica Dewey, a Greenwood Road resident. "I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I like that it is going all the way through."

Dewey said she's been waiting and looking for the Cypress Drive and for a trail access to have a place to go bike riding. Greenwood Street connects to Cypress Drive on its leg south of Highway 210 in the residential area with townhouses and apartment buildings. Residents and businesses in Industrial Park and the residential areas access their homes or businesses and jobs by using either Highway 371 to the west or Highland Scenic Drive to the east. Several people said they highly anticipated the greater ease of access to simply get on Cypress Drive and head north nearly directly instead of taking an extended route east or west to get where they want to go. The main point of contention, as with most projects, was the cost.

"It was quite a surprise," Dewey said of the assessment. "I knew it would be something. It was a little more than I expected."

This project would be the third time the city of Baxter used an area-wide assessment, noting the improvements benefit not just adjoining property owners but also a wider transportation area. Federal funding will assist with the area-wide assessments with $6 million earmarked for the $14 million project. Overall the project is getting about $8 million in grants and expects to need about $2 million in assessments. Local option sales tax dollars can also be used on water, sewer and safety improvements to help cover costs as well as bonding and municipal state aid funds and water and sewer funds.

Trevor Walter, public works director, said about 14 different sources of financing are expected for the project.

Lisa Paxton, whose manufacturing business Ultra Paws is on Industrial Park Road, said her employees would also benefit from the Cypress Drive access. Paxton, noting the number of office workers in the area, also noted a path or even marked bike lane on Industrial Park Road would be a benefit as more people are out walking during breaks. It would also provide a link to the residential areas, as well as the nearby trails. Paxton also wondered if the stacking distance for vehicles turning left from Cypress Drive onto Highway 210 would be enough as people begin using the route, noting six of her employees would nearly fill the stacking distance before any other businesses were counted. Engineers used traffic modeling and estimates based on the area at full build out to help determine what would be needed for traffic.

Matt Seymour, a business owner including the College Square convenience store, raised questions on the assessment plans. Seymour, who also said the access should be beneficial for business, asked if the city determined assessments did indeed provide the financial benefit to the property as expected with the project. Mayor Darrel Olson said there is an appeal process to district court and appraisals are an option to determine if the value was there.

Questions were welcomed during the session, as well as the comments pointing to areas of concern or potential spots for improvement or additional areas in the industrial park's phase three that could be included in the area-wide assessment. About 20 people attended.

Paxton said one of the issues for Baxter to work on is getting ahead of the projects so property owners have time to plan and prepare for the assessments. City administrator Brad Chapulis said that is the game plan to provide as much notice as possible. The city is working on a two-year notice.

The next step is an improvement hearing on July 10 with the final design expected yet this summer or fall. Another open house is planned for the fall. The schedule calls for bids and an assessment hearing in the spring of 2018. Construction is expected in June or July of 2018 with the project completed in the fall of 2019.