Baxter City Council: Members ponder 371 trail reroute after ground lines discovered
BAXTER--There's a hang-up in ongoing plans to develop a pedestrian trail along Highway 371--or, more specifically, a hang-up comprised of two gas lines, three fiber optic lines and one underground electric line all located within 25 feet of the r...
BAXTER-There's a hang-up in ongoing plans to develop a pedestrian trail along Highway 371-or, more specifically, a hang-up comprised of two gas lines, three fiber optic lines and one underground electric line all located within 25 feet of the roadway.
This new development-discovered in a survey of the site by engineering-architectural firm Widseth Smith Nolting-puts plans for the stretch of trail from Highway 210 to Excelsior Road in a difficult position, as moving these utilities would represent a significant and unbudgeted expenditure by the city of Baxter. This portion of the trail factors as part of a larger vision being discussed by the city to link trails and make the area more accessible and attractive to pedestrians.
Currently, the trail is planned to run through areas in the right of way controlled by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which means the city has no means to leverage companies into moving the utilities themselves.
During a work session Tuesday, Feb. 5, WSN civil engineer Aric Welch said the city has a couple of options to construct the pedestrian trail in a way that doesn't conflict with the utilities in the ground. The council will vote on the matter during its next meeting 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Baxter City Hall.
• The first option entails placing the trail closer to Highway 371, and out of the MnDOT right of way, though it's been noted that to meet requirements, the trail must be 30 feet from traffic and will probably have to be placed somewhat in the ditch. This would make it difficult to install proper water drainage.
• The second option entails placing the trail outside of the existing right of way along the highway north of Fairview Road to Excelsior Road. Then, the trail could be placed next to the right of way on an easement or the trail could be completed at a later date as a requirement for the development of the Fruth property . The Fruth property designates a largely undeveloped plot of land south of Excelsior and north of Fairview roads. Welch noted it may be in the best interest of the city to hold off developments of the trail to see how the Fruth property shapes up.
"I'm a proponent of keeping it in the MnDOT right of way if we can. That would be my recommendation," council member Todd Holman said.
He noted developments along the north edge of the Fruth property, along with links to the Excelsior Road/Highway 210 intersection, could be jeopardized if the city chooses the second option and moves the trail away from its current placement.
"I think it would be a heavy burden or cost, one way or another," Holman later said. "If there's a way to dodge moving the utilities, I think it would be easier to deal with the drainage problems."
Council member Mark Cross-along with similar comments by Welch and Holman-noted it limits what the city can do if they lean on developing the trail along private property, whether that's the extent of the trail, how landscaping will be developed, or the placement of other trail-related amenities.
While MnDOT has not expressed opposition to moving the trail closer to the road-so long as maintains the 30-foot "clear zone"-Mayor Darrel Olson expressed concerns the trail's placement could engender safety risks and vulnerability to water runoff from the highway. Welch said water runoff and some safety risks for pedestrians are possible, but long-term damage to the trail itself is unlikely.
Council member Zach Tabatt expressed misgivings about the second option-namely, that it puts the trail in a "roundabout" route that seems incompatible with natural pedestrian movement and forces bikers/walkers to take an extended detour away from the rest of the trail.
In other business, the council:
Approved a special event permit for the 2019 Kiwanis Kids Triathlon, Aug. 24 at Whipple Beach.
Accepted a contribution of $7,589 from the Lakes Area Drug Investigative Division to purchase gas masks for Baxter Police Department officers.
Approved a revised job description for the position of public works supervisor and authorized staff to commence the process to fill the position of street and utilities supervisor.
Approved a revised contract for building inspection services with Great Northern Environmental Solutions LLC.
Amended the budget to increase project funding from $220,000 to $250,600 and award the water treatment facilities improvements construction contract to Rice Lake Contracting Group in the amount of $205,700.
Convened a closed session to consult legal counsel. City Administrator Brad Chapulis said the session was prompted by an appeal to special assessments involved in the Cypress Drive corridor construction project.