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Brainerd School District: Changing traffic flow: Board considers street changes around BHS

This is one of three options the Brainerd School Board was presented Monday by Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting from the traffic study of how the streets would look like near Brainerd High School south and north campuses. Screenshot1 / 3
This is one of three options the Brainerd School Board was presented Monday by Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting from the traffic study of how the streets would look like near Brainerd High School south and north campuses. Screenshot2 / 3
This is one of three options the Brainerd School Board was presented Monday by Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting from the traffic study of how the streets would look like near Brainerd High School south and north campuses. Screenshot3 / 3

Brainerd Public Schools has three options to consider on its traffic study relating to the future plans of how to access the Brainerd High School.

The Brainerd School Board Monday heard the findings of the traffic study from Tim Houle of Widseth Smith Nolting. The traffic study is one part of the district's final comprehensive facilities plan. The district is proposing to build a new Baxter Elementary School, repurposing all six elementary schools and spending about $79 million to remodel the Brainerd High School north campus.

The district plan includes investing about $11 million at the BHS-South Campus and $79 million in the BHS-North Campus. Part of the investment is configuring the access into and out of the two campuses. The north campus building sits off South Fifth Street in Brainerd and the south campus is just south of the north campus off Quince Street. The south campus serves ninth-graders and the north campus serves 10th- through 12th-graders.

The board approved the final facilities plan in December, but it will not be a reality unless financing for the plan is approved by the school district voters. A special referendum election date of April 10 has been scheduled, though early voting is open now.

The possible improvements around BHS could specifically impact 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 said. Houle provided the engineering data and analysis of the impact to the transportation system due to possible changes to the streets. The data, collected by a review group of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the city of Brainerd and Brainerd Public Schools, is preliminary and a final design would occur at a later date. The school board did not take any action on the traffic study.

Houle said the traffic study included pedestrian, school bus and vehicle traffic and included a projection of 20 years of traffic in moving toward the future. The traffic study analyzed 16 combinations of street closures and layouts, including one-ways and two-ways.

Houle provided three options for the school board to consider as the best ways to reconfigure the streets.

• 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 part of the parking and green space.

• Option 3: Keep Pine Street open and close the south half of South Fifth Street and make 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.

Houle said a side bump-out—which is a median landscape designed with a curve—constructed alongside the sidewalk and road would make the road appear narrower and make drivers slow down as they have to drive around the curve. There are also bump-outs at intersections, which act as a pedestrian crossing.

One thing the school board should keep in mind is South Fifth Street is a City Municipal State Aid System street and has to meet the criteria of a state aid street, Houle said. If the street were to be vacated, "there would probably be some previously invested state aid funds corresponding to the remaining life of improvements made on Fifth Street that would have to be paid back," Houle stated in his presentation to the board.

"If all or part of Fifth Street were vacated, the school district would first need to show the city what the public benefit would be for the entire area. The initial reaction is that the threshold for doing this is attainable for Pine Street, but would be challenging for Fifth Street."

Brainerd School Board member Bob Nystrom asked Houle if he knew what direction the Brainerd City Council was leaning toward with which option to go with on the traffic study. Houle said he did not know, but said city officials were pleased with the options.

In other business, the board:

Accepted the resignations/retirements of Kay Pederson, education assistant at Lincoln Education Center; Hollie Radomski, secretary at Harrison Elementary School; Tammy Rouland, special education assistant at BHS and Krystal Stadig, a special education assistant at BHS-South Campus.

Approved the hiring of Marci Lord as the next director of business services for the district, effective July 1.

Revised the 2017-18 preliminary budget. The minor revisions of the preliminary budget show an increase of $1,046,361 in revenue and an increase of $1,539,470 in expenses.

The district has an unreserved fund balance, akin to a savings account, of roughly $8 million, and with the revisions this will drop to about $7 million. In the general fund alone with the revisions, the revenue is estimated at $67,254,503 and expenditures of $67,098,799.

Approved a resolution appointing election judges for the April 10, school district referendum vote.