Highway 210/Washington Street is slated for reconstruction in 2025, and Brainerd city officials want pedestrian accessibility to be at the forefront of the project.

As the road is owned and maintained by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, MnDOT officials joined with Brainerd city engineering staff to form a project management team that will study the corridor and develop the scope of the project.

A city project management team -- composed of council members and other city staffers -- will act as a steering committee to provide guidance on the project.

City Engineer Paul Sandy led discussion Monday, Sept. 9, explaining what MnDOT hopes to accomplish with the project and asking council members what they want to see.

So far, MnDOT has identified the following priorities:

  • American with Disabilities Act improvements -- Extensive changes to pedestrian access routes to achieve ADA compliance and improve safety.

  • Railroad -- Evaluate the working relationship of the railroad corridor and maintenance yard parallel to the road.

  • Access changes - Analyze potential access issues to any businesses needing to be addressed to improve safety and traffic flow.

  • Bridge -- Analyze the need for changes on the Washington Street bridge and its potential impacts on the road.

  • Bicycle connectivity -- Coordination with the city, Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association, Paul Bunyan State Trail and Department of Natural Resources to connect trails.

  • Freight and commercial vehicles -- Coordination with regional trucks and businesses that use the route to transport goods.

  • Utility coordination -- Inventory all existing utilities and potential conflicts, including utility crossings, water mains, storm sewers and street lighting.

  • Environment -- Investigate environmental impacts.

Council members agreed they liked the objectives provided, but most added they wanted to see a focus on pedestrian and biker friendly accesses along the corridor -- especially on the bridge -- above anything else.

“One thing I would like to see is connectivity between north Brainerd and downtown,” council member Jan Lambert said. “Somehow we need a walking bridge or something like that.”

Council member Kevin Stunek noted the importance of pedestrian accessibility between north and south Brainerd as well.

The Washington Street bridge was a big topic, too, as Lambert noted its inaccessibility to pedestrians in the winter, and others mentioned the possibility of an underpass below the bridge to help pedestrians cross the street more easily.

“That corridor divides our city,” council member Dave Badeaux said, “and our city is made up of people, not vehicles.”

Connecting trails and making the area more navigable by bicycle was another priority, council members said.

As a business owner on Washington Street, council member Kelly Bevans said road accesses are important. He said he knows of many business owners worried MnDOT may remove some of the road approaches and accesses into businesses off Highway 210 and Washington Street.

“I think this gives us a good starting point and a good direction for me to go to our first meeting on Wednesday and get the feel of this PMT (project management team) committee at MnDOT,” Sandy said after council members made their remarks.

The professional project management team meets Wednesday, Sept. 11, for the first time, and Sandy said, from there, he will report back to the council, bringing big ticket items in front of the full council for discussion and likely make a suggestion on how often the city’s project management team should meet.