Crow Wing County's plans to reconstruct County Highway 13 between Nisswa and Lake Edward Township moved forward but not without some concerns by the board.

County Engineer Tim Bray requested at the Tuesday, Feb. 12, board meeting the commissioners' approval to acquire County Highway 13 right of way to improve the highway.

Bray said the construction will take place in three phases, starting with the intersection of Highway 371 and County Highway 13 in Nisswa where a new bank is planned. The Sportland Corners building on Smiley Road in Nisswa will come down and a building with an American National Bank branch and Stonehouse Coffee shop will go up this summer. The building has been vacant and deteriorating since the Sportland Cafe closed about 10 years ago.

Slated for this summer is the reconfiguration of the intersection lanes to add left-turn lanes on Highway 13 because of traffic congestion. Reconstruction of the east half of Highway 13 is slated for 2020 and the west half in 2021.

Planned improvements

The planned improvements consist of reconstructing the highway to county state aid standards "to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the traveling public," and more rights of way over property in that area are required for the construction project, according to county officials.

"Previously, which was last year-I believe it was in, I think, September or so-we had a similar resolution for the easterly portion of CSAH (county state aid highway) 13, and we were granted permission to proceed with right of way acquisition and we are well into that," Bray said of the 100-foot right of way.

"It takes several years to deliver the right of way, design the plans and then move forward with construction."

The county will use certified appraisers when necessary for the appraisal valuations of the right of way the project requires, and has the authority to acquire right of way by eminent domain, pursuant to state statutes, if right of way cannot be acquired through direct negotiations.

"We're dealing with lakeshore properties, we're dealing with some historic properties. The old Lake Hubert store is there, which is historic, and that has some challenges there," Bray said.

Those challenges to right of way acquisition include proximity of homes and cabins, pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts, utility relocation, cultural resources, public expectation and maintenance.

"We feel that to get the proper drainage that is needed, we need a 100-foot right of way corridor to properly construct the shoulders that are needed and also the drainage conveyances that we need there," Bray said.

Bray wanted the board to authorize him to hire appraisers and review appraisers, apply for easements across state lands, extend financial offers to area landowners and negotiate for the necessary right of way for the project upon completion of the appraisal valuations.

"So it sounds like this is going to be a major, major redo then? I mean you're going to redo the ditches and the drainage?" Commissioner Paul Koering asked Bray.

Bray replied, "Total reconstruction. ... We've corresponded either in writing or in person (with area property owners) ... and there was some concerns about that. ... From our interactions with them, it was a small amount that was adamantly opposed to it."

The challenge of the County Highway 13 reconstruction project is to improve safety because of horizontal curves and sight distance, halt rapid pavement deterioration, and decrease impact on environment and lakes or wetlands, according to county officials.

The County Highway 13 reconstruction project began at County Road 137 and moved west to Highway 371 with right of way acquisition procedures for the highway from Sunset Valley Road west to about Lake Hubert.

"I don't know if this a major, major feeder into, like, (Highway) 371 or (County Highway) 4. ... Does the traffic count warrant the money? I mean total reconstruction is a lot of money versus a simple overlay or something like that," Koering asked Bray.

Bray said, "We know that we're not going to please everyone, but together we're hopefully making the decisions that are for the greater good of this county and our guests who travel these roads, and I think this falls into that category, too."

Bray said the average traffic is about 2,000 cars per day in the project area and County Highway 13 is one of the last county state aid highways not to adhere to designated standards.

"Our construction standard has been 100 feet, so over the last 10 or more years, CSAH 4 has been reconstructed, CSAH 3 in Crosslake has been reconstructed, CSAH 36 has been reconstructed in Crosslake," Bray said. "A 100-foot corridor is our standard. It's to ensure that we get the proper shoulder width, and when applying appropriate shoulder width you get the appropriate depth of ditches to store snow and convey water and those things."

Project goals

Project goals include safety for motorists, residents, bicyclists and pedestrians, correcting design deficiencies, building curves to correct safety standards mandated by the state, improving pavement quality, maintaining the roadway's character and more.

"There are areas on County (Highway) 13 where it floods in the spring, and water does not flow. It's fixing drainage. ... We do know that we need right of way from about 90 parcels along that to complete that," Bray said. "I found a letter from 1985 from (former county engineer) Duane Blanck saying that we're going to do the same project, and it would require a 100-foot corridor. And here we are 30-some years later, and we still have not done it. It needed it then, it needs it now."

Koering then made the motion to authorize the acquisition of County Highway 13 rights of way by eminent domain, if necessary, if it cannot be acquired through direct negotiations. Commissioner Bill Brekken seconded the motion. None of the commissioners objected to it.