Brainerd Council gives green light to 210 redesign
Brainerd City Council members approved the design for the 2026 reconstruction of Highway 210/Washington Street on a 6-1 vote Tuesday, Feb. 21.
BRAINERD — Two roundabouts are officially in the future for northeast Brainerd.
City Council members approved designs and gave municipal consent Tuesday, Feb. 21, for a construction project on Highway 210/Washington Street in 2026.
The estimated $43 million project — with cost inflated for 2026 — will reconstruct the portion of road between Baxter Drive in Baxter and Pine Shores Road in Brainerd. The city’s share is estimated at about $7 million.
The western and eastern ends of the project area — from Baxter Drive to Northwest Fourth Street and 10th Avenue Northeast to Pine Shores Road — is mill and overlay, essentially removing and replacing the top layer of pavement.
The center portion of the road between Northwest Fourth Street and 10th Avenue Northeast will undergo reconstruction, with new pavement, sidewalk and city utilities. Most notably in this section, the signal light at the intersection with Fourth Avenue Northeast will be removed, and two roundabouts will be constructed at the intersections of Highway 25 and Eighth Avenue Northeast, also known as Mill Avenue. The roundabout at Highway 25 would have four legs, while the one at Eighth Avenue would have three legs, with no access to the south as it replaces a T-intersection.
The roundabouts don’t come without controversy , though.
“Most people are going to avoid these roundabouts like the plague,” northeast resident Jody Converse said during Tuesday’s public hearing on the project.
Council member Jeff Czeczok shared Converse’s sentiment and was the sole vote against the design. Czeczok, who also lives in northeast Brainerd, worried drivers coming from the north on Mill Avenue and wanting to travel west would bypass the roundabouts by using H Street and turning on First, Second or Third avenues northeast.
“It’s a very quiet neighborhood, believe it or not,” he said. “... There’s not much traffic on Third Avenue, and I just see this being turned into a speedway just because of these roundabouts. People are gonna want to avoid them, especially during high traffic.”
Czeczok’s other complaint was pedestrian safety at roundabouts compared to traffic lights. As someone who is visually impaired, he said he would not cross the Eighth Avenue Northeast intersection if there is a roundabout there.
“I will not risk my life to enter a roundabout,” Czeczok said. “It’s just, there’s no security there at all. And with a light there is. And we talk about the ADA a lot — all the time. And I just — there is no security there in a roundabout. You’re stepping off a curb into what? It’s a no-man’s land. And I feel that way for people in wheelchairs — it’s much the same.”
In the past, Minnesota Department of Transportation project managers have said the roundabouts would help with traffic flow, especially with future traffic demands.
Converse was still not convinced of the need for the roundabouts.
“The state — a long time ago — forced fluoride down our throats,” she said, referring to the controversy over fluoridated water in the 1980s. “Are we going to allow the state to force something that the people don’t want?”
During an online public comment period last August and September, 1,767 people viewed the project designs online, and 117 of them left comments. Forty-two of the comments contained negative feedback on the roundabout proposals, while 18 were in favor of roundabouts. But with only about 7% of visitors leaving comments, MnDOT officials said they could reasonably assume based on prior experience that the majority of the remaining 93% were likely in support of the design or indifferent.
The only other person to speak during Tuesday’s public forum was Marc Halverson, owner of Brainerd Floral at 316 Washington St. Halverson had concerns about maintaining access to his business during earlier conversations but felt better about changes made since.
The main goal for the portion of the road between Baxter Drive and the Mississippi River bridge is to widen the sidewalks for pedestrians. Medians at Northwest Third and Northwest Fifth streets would also create right-in/right-out only intersections to reduce backups and congestion caused by left-turning vehicles from Highway 210 onto side streets.
There will also be bump outs at Baxter Drive and Northwest Seventh Street, and the signal at Northwest Fourth Street will be replaced.
On the Mississippi River bridge, sidewalks will be widened, and there will be a barrier between the sidewalk and driving lanes.
Continuing east a median will be added to the intersection with Chippewa Street, meaning eastbound traffic will not be able to make a left turn there but would instead have to turn at First Street.
The intersection at North Second Street will remain fully accessible for emergency hospital traffic, but there will be a median through North Third, Seventh and Ninth streets, and new signals at North Fourth and Eighth streets. The eastbound left turn lanes at North Fifth and Kingwood streets will remain to provide access into north Brainerd.
The signal at Gillis Avenue and 13th Street Southeast will be replaced, and a median will be added to the intersection of First Avenue Northeast. The intersections of Second and Third avenues northeast will be full access.
The multiuse trail on the northside of the road between Fifth and 14th avenues northeast will be replaced, and trail access will be added from F Street to G Street and from 10th Avenue Northeast to 13th Avenue Northeast.
On the easternmost segment of the road, a median will be added at Wonderland Park Road/Rice Lake Lane to create right-in/right-out access only.
While the design was not perfect, other council members aside from Czeczok said the plan seemed to be the best outcome.
“We’ve been meeting for years talking about this,” said council member Gabe Johnson, who was a part of the project management team for the design. “The project management team has pushed back pretty hard at the MnDOT crew, and they’ve given us a lot of concessions on things we want and need to see in this community. … What we have here is about as good of a job here as we’re going to do.”
Czeczok said he was concerned about conceding MnDOT’s wants on the project versus the city’s.
“This road is not just for people that are traveling in their vehicles from Point A to B to C to D,” Czeczok said. “This is for commerce. There’s semis. There’s all kinds of products moving east and west, north and south through this city.”
Council member Mike O’Day, who also sat on the project management team, said there is no way to make every single person happy with the project, but he is satisfied with where it is.
“There were going to be changes at almost every single intersection, and we tried to make as much the same as we could,” O’Day said. “... I’ve heard people speak just as passionately about getting rid of a stoplight as I have people about maintaining a stoplight. So it is what it is at this point.”
Council member Tiffany Stenglein said the design might not be perfect but is better than the original proposal .
Johnson, O’Day and Stenglein voted to approve the design, along with council members Kelly Bevans, Kara Terry and Kevin Stunek. Czeczok was the sole vote in opposition.
As the project moves forward, MnDOT officials will schedule more meetings with the public to discuss construction and staging plans.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .