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UPDATE: Deerwood man dies in head-on crash with semitrailer

Baxter City Council: Supports direction for Memorywood Drive project

Some homes along Memorywood Drive in Baxter leave little room for options to widen the city street or add off-street trail systems. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER—With homes a short distance from Memorywood Drive, coming up with a plan to reconstruct the road may seem a bit like playing the classic Operation game.

For the Baxter City Council, it's been a operational challenge to envision fitting everything in the right of way with the precision of dropping in an arm bone without activating the game buzzer. At issue is a 2019 project to improve the street along White Sand Lake stretching from its terminus near city hall to Clearwater Road. Accommodating pedestrian and bike traffic have been part of the conversation, but it all comes with a finite space issue. The space constraint and trying to fit in an off-street trail had one city council member worrying a home resident may smack a bike rider in the face when they opened their front door.

Tuesday, Aric Welch, consulting engineer with Widseth Smith Nolting, presented two options for the street project down from four when the council discussed possibilities last month. 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.

Option one called for 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. The street would remain 34 feet with two 11-foot wide driving lanes and two 6-foot wide bike lanes. The lanes would be marked for bikes and no parking.

Option two was a hybrid choice with an urban section created with two 11-foot bike lanes, a 5-foot bike lane on the east side of the street and a 5-foot boulevard with an 11-foot trail on the west side. Curb and gutter would be used for the street instead of the rural design without it. Council member Todd Holman thought the curb and gutter would be on just one side of the street on the trail side. Welch said without a place for the stormwater to go, curb and gutter would be necessary on both sides of the street. The city would have to buy property for a stormwater retention pond. And Welch said there isn't a lot of room to relocate utilities. Council member Mark Cross noted the proximity of the properties on both sides of the street. Welch said property owners would need to take down improvements within the right of way.

As for utilities, Welch noted this is a concern for every street in the city, and one issue is whether the city wants to adopt an ordinance requiring utilities to move. Holman advocated revisiting that subject and the idea of an ordinance.

For Memorywood, Holman said going with option one and providing paved shoulders with bike lanes is a good solution. If the city does that, Holman said, they are doing a lot for pedestrian safety. He noted the separated trail came up as a few voices said it would be nice, but it also adds more than $1 million to the cost. Holman said he was in favor of paved shoulders within the existing right of way.

Mayor Darrel Olson said he favored that option as well.

Welch said he will bring forward both options with costs associated.

"I think I'd just like to show the public that we've looked at this and this is why the council thinks this is the best option," Holman said. "At least we've done our due diligence."

Council member Quinn Nystrom agreed. Council member Steve Barrows was absent.