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Baxter City Council: Memorywood poses challenges for street plan

Memorywood Drive and its higher density of residents poses challenges for the Baxter City Council as it considers a 2019 street project. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER—One of Baxter's most populous streets is posing a challenge as the city council looks at a 2019 street project.

The city is looking at improving the street that runs west of White Sand Lake between Highway 210 and Clearwater Road. Aric Welch, consulting engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, presented four options to the council. Design for the project brings a desire to upgrade options for pedestrians but comes with limits on space available with homes between the lake and the street.

"There are a couple of properties there that I'd be concerned with a separated trail that if they open the front door they are going to be smacking a bike rider in the face," Council member Steve Barrows said.

Memorywood Drive was constructed in 1989. The street is 34 feet wide with two 11-foot driving lanes, an 8 foot shoulder on the west side and a 4 foot shoulder on the east side. In considering a separated paved trail, the west side of the street was picked so pedestrians and bicyclists wouldn't have to cross Memorywood from the side streets to get to the trail, removing one potential traffic conflict.

Option A

Full-depth reclamation, meaning the pavement and the base beneath it are pulverized and recycled for a new base and a new roadway surface is applied, of the street with pavement markings for bike lanes. There would not be a separated trail but paved shoulders would be planned. This plan has the lowest cost at an estimated $1.7 million to $2 million. The street width would not change and there would be no impacts to private property, Welch reported, along with little impact to private utilities.

Option B

A full reconstruction of the road with curb and gutter on the west side and a separated trail as close to the street as possible, perhaps a 5-foot separation. The roadway would be narrowed to 26 feet in width. Welch reported the road alignment would change with this option to allow construction within the existing right of way. Listed advantages include a separated trail for pedestrians and bicycles and limited private property acquisition for stormwater basins. But those advantages come with a high cost for storm sewer and property acquisition bringing the estimated project cost to $4.6 million to $5.5 million.

Private utilities would need to be relocated. This option would also take more time to buy out properties. Welch said the area is so developed it would mean buying a house and a property in order to put in a stormwater treatment pond.

Option C

This option calls for a full-depth reclamation of the street with pavement markings for bike lanes and a separated trail. The council was told about 14 feet of property would be need to be acquired on one side of Memorywood to make room for the trail with many property owners affected.

The street width and alignment would not change with this option. But it also comes with a high cost given the need to acquire property and adds to the timeline for land purchases and trail construction. This option is estimated to cost between $2.6 million and $3 million.

This option also listed a disadvantage as it may create setback issues for existing structures.

Option D

This last option listed calls for a full-depth reclamation to a 26-foot wide street with a separated pedestrian and bike trail on one side. By narrowing the road, this option reduces the amount of property needed. About 11 feet of property would be needed to be purchased to put in the separated trail.

This option would not realign the street, which was considered an advantage. But it has a higher cost of $2.5 million to $2.9 million because of the property acquisition needed. Among disadvantages listed were the extended time to buy land and build the trail, the narrower road width, impacts to private utilities.

Council feedback

Welch said they were seeking council feedback to pick out a couple of options before finishing the feasibility study. In addition, plans are to meet with residents.

Council member Steve Barrows noted many of the houses on Memorywood Drive are already right on the street. Council member Quinn Nystrom said the difficulty comes from not having much room to work with. Nystrom said her preference is for a separated trail but the council needs to conscious of how much land the city would be taking and the overall expense as well. Nystrom pointed to the curve as Memorywood nears Clearwater as being one potential problem for pedestrians or bikes on the roadway now.

Council member Todd Holman also liked the separated trail although not a rural design that moved it a far distance from the road. He noting there are a lot of good arguments for the safety design with the density of population in the neighborhood, but he asked if it fit in this instance and if the city could afford it. Holman said he heard from a couple of people who thought the trail was a good idea.

Holman said he thought option C is probably a non-starter. He suggested a 5-foot paved shoulder on the east side, two 11-foot lanes, no big shoulder just a boulevard and a trail that is close to the road for a hybrid of the complete streets design.

Mayor Darrel Olson was in favor of option A. He described it as "doing what we can with what we've got."

"I've always felt there is the optimal of what we'd like to do and then there is what's reasonable," Olson said, noting the narrow lots and lack of land to deal with when thinking of more grandiose plans. Olson said if residents want a trail then so be it but he'd want to hear that from the people.

Holman was in favor of option A and option D with paved shoulder on the east, two narrow lanes, curb and gutter and a paved trail. Nystrom agreed. There appeared to be general consensus to narrow any trail to 10 feet in width instead of 12 feet.

Council member Mark Cross was absent.

Also on the discussion list is whether to increase the number of street lights on Memorywood from those at the intersections to do something akin to the work on Excelsior Road.

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