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An overpass at Highway 371 may be in the future

Baxter council expresses support for changed Hwy 371/210, which is on a list of 43 projects under consideration with the state.

Picture of the intersection of two highways
Vehicles pass through the intersection of Highways 210 and 371 Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 in Baxter.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — In the future, motorists driving through Baxter’s most well-known intersection — the convergence of highways 371 and 210 — are likely to navigate a different path.

And for those who live here, that nexus of auto traffic will look very different. Just when that may happen isn’t yet clear, but this month the Baxter City Council presented its official support for an overpass at the intersection that would also go over the BNSF railway line south of the intersection.

In 2022, Baxter collaborated with Crow Wing County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on the completion of an intersection improvement study of the intersection. The study identified the need for a grade separated intersection at highways 371 and 210.

The study lists the intersection as the busiest in northern Minnesota with very high traffic volumes on both highways 210 and 371.

Graphics show two options for the intersection on a map.
A highway study, supported by Baxter, Crow Wing County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation looked at options for a changed intersection at Highway 371 and 210 in Baxter.
Contributed / MnDOT

The study lists the intersection as the busiest in northern Minnesota with very high traffic volumes on both highways 210 and 371.

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The intersection ranks as the 14th highest crash cost intersection in Minnesota. The study reported the number of crashes is more than three times the critical crash rate. The area was described as a complex mix of local and interregional traffic in an area that serves the primary retail hub for the Baxter and Brainerd region.

Two concepts came up in the study — a quadrant interchange and a diverging diamond interchange, with one example of that being the Highway 15 and Stearns County Road 120 in St. Cloud.

MnDOT describes navigating the diverging diamond interchange as “traffic crisscrosses at either end of the bridge, so instead of making hard left turns, drivers veer to the left for access. Pedestrians cross to the middle of the bridge and walk in the middle between the eastbound and westbound lanes with protective barriers on either side.”

The quadrant interchange is described as needing a smaller footprint with the through traffic crossing over on Highway 371 with options for traffic to curve off and exit Highway 371 to access Highway 210. Both scenarios close the link to Elder Drive, the problematic connection to Highway 210 often used to reach retail areas like Home Depot, Costco and points south like Walmart and other commercial and medical service areas. Elder Drive has also been a source of concern from crashes and fatalities with various options tried to make the connection safer.

The council didn’t discuss the issue Tuesday, Feb. 7, but passed the motion of support as part of its regular business. The highways 371/210 project was submitted by Crow Wing County and is one of 43 projects being considered. Baxter noted one of the funding sources is from MnDOT’s Corridors of Commerce program, which the City Council supported.

The letter stated, in part, that an award of funding from the Corridors of Commerce program would facilitate the construction of the intersection and overpass of the railroad tracks. The highways, Baxter stated, “play an integral role in the economic strength/growth of the City of Baxter, Crow Wing County and the Brainerd Lakes Area. These roads provide direct routes to the ports in Duluth and the transportation hub of the Twin Cities, as well as serve the artery of the local retail/tourism industry. Grade separation of Hwy 371 and BNSF railway would assure the two highways continue to serve their role as an economic engine for the region and do so in a manner that is safe and (American with Disabilities Act) compliant for all modes of transportation. It would also improve access along the project corridor and contribute to the growth in our region, including the anticipated growth of the City of Baxter itself.”

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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