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Baxter City Council hosts public hearing on new intersection

The City Council will meet in a special session Thursday, June 16, for a improvement hearing on the 2023 Knollwood Drive project.

A car waits at the stoplight at the Knollwood Drive and Highway 210 intersection in Baxter just past the railroad crossing.
In 2023, the city of Baxter plans to take down the signal light at Knollwood Drive and finishing work to move it and the railroad crossing to the Inglewood Drive intersection to the east.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Planned work on moving the signal light and nearby railway crossing by Highway 210 in Baxter is expected in two phases with the lion’s share completed in 2023.

The council hosted a public hearing June 7 to vacate, or let go of the public interest, a short section of Knollwood Drive — between Foley Road and Highway 210. One person attended. Mayor Darrel Olson said the resident was looking for a brief overview of where the project stands.

Trevor Thompson, assistant city engineer, said they are advertising for bids and expect to open those bids about July 7. Thompson said they have until early September to award the bid with construction expected to start in the fall. The work will need to be done in two phases with some items able to be started before winter ends work in the fall and the rest completed in 2023. Expectations are to get the light posts set for the Inglewood Drive section in the fall and do some work for the railroad crossing, which will give it the desired benefit of going through a freeze/thaw cycle so adjustments can be made after it settles. In 2023, plans call for taking down the signal light at Knollwood and finishing the Inglewood Drive intersection.

“It’s going to be a little bit aggressive next year,” Thompson said.

State law requires a public hearing whenever a city is letting go of a public street, which in this case is related to the city’s longstanding project of relocating the signal intersection and railroad crossing from Knollwood Drive and moving it east to Inglewood Drive.

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The proposal is to extend Inglewood Drive across Highway 210 and across the BNSF Railroad tracks. The agreement with BNSF requires closing the Knollwood Drive railroad crossing to create the new crossing. The June 7 hearing provided an opportunity for public input on the relocation. No one from the public spoke.

Council member Mark Cross raised a question on the timeline, asking if the Inglewood crossing would be open before the city vacates, or lets go of that section of Knollwood. Thompson said the actual closing will be done after the Inglewood Drive crossing is open. He referred the question of whether vacating the street needed to be made contingent upon the completion of the construction project as a safety net to the city attorney.

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Construction is currently underway on Foley Road and a multi-purpose trail next to the road with tree removal and work on the city street. The city reported there was a delay in the construction project’s schedule related to finalizing BNSF easements for the right of way. The Minnesota Department of Transportation wanted the easement documents done versus relying on a signed construction and maintenance agreement with BNSF before the state department would sign off on the right of way certification.

The city reported a major reason to open bids in June was to ensure state and federal funding would be finalized before the June 30 end of MnDOT’s fiscal year. In a report to the council, city staff noted MnDOT confirmed the city is not in jeopardy of losing any state or federal funding with the proposed schedule to open bids July 7.

Construction plans

The plan to relocate the signal and railroad crossing has been in the works for decades. For years, Baxter officials have planned moving the signal intersection at Knollwood Drive to the east and creating a new crossing at Inglewood to create a north/south corridor west of Highway 371. It was part of a beltway vision for alternative traffic flow in the city beyond the mainstay of Highway 371. And it is also part of redefining the city’s traffic connection to its other main artery of Highway 210, which is the main corridor for east/west traffic through the city.

Signs point to the detour for Foley Road.
Construction work is ongoing on Foley Road in Baxter.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Moving the Knollwood intersection would mean eliminating that railroad crossing and making Foley Road a more substantial player in the traffic corridor.

The city ordered bids call for a project that will:

  • Remove the south leg of the Highway 210 and Knollwood Drive intersection, including the railroad crossing and connection to Foley Road. 
  • Remove the traffic signal at Highway 210 and Knollwood Drive intersection and construct a reduced conflict intersection, sometimes called J-turns, with street lighting system. The reduced conflict intersection is designed to reduce fatalities and injuries from broadside crashes.
  • Construct a traffic signal and turn lanes at Highway 210 at Inglewood Drive. 
  • Make improvements to storm sewer on Highway 210 at both intersections. 
  • Do roadway, trail and railway crossing improvements on Inglewood Drive from Highway 210 to Foley Road. 

Special city council session set Thursday

The Baxter City Council will meet in a special city council session at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 16, for the improvement hearing for the 2023 Knollwood Drive project.

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The project will reconstruct the roadway and trail on Knollwood from Highland Scenic Drive, also known as County Highway 48, to Foley Road. The hearing will allow property owners to raise concerns or bring up questions on the project or the estimated cost to them via assessments related to the construction. The council can order a resolution on the project anytime within six months of the improvement hearing.

“The total estimated cost of the improvements is $2,451,098,” the city reported. “The portion of the cost to be paid by the City is estimated to be $1,830,578 and the estimated portion of the cost to be assessed to benefitting property owners is $620,520. Project costs include $255,767 in contingencies.”

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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