Planning starts now for 2025 Highway 210 project
From amenities to traffic, all those present wanted the city to have a better plan when it comes to strategically placing benches and other necessities around the city.
BRAINERD — Layout and aesthetics were a chief concern for business owners on and around the Highway 210 corridor Tuesday, March 29, as plans continue to develop for reconstruction of the road in 2025.
The Brainerd City Council workshop was an open discussion between residents and business owners, council members and Paul Sandy, Brainerd’s City Engineer and Public Works Director, to give input on a planned reconstruction project of Highway 210/Washington Street between Baxter Drive and Pine Shores Road in Brainerd.
Project development began in December 2019, with the first in-person open house planned for March 2020 but it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, a virtual open house took place in the winter of 2020, with over 1,000 community members reviewing project documents online, sharing concerns about the Highway 210 corridor and giving feedback as to what they would like to see improved.
Fewer than 10 people attended the Tuesday meeting, which was focused on aesthetics. Sandy asked those in attendance to give input on the features and look they envisioned for downtown Brainerd.
“As I said in the letter, this is kind of a once in a lifetime type of reconstruction project and it's important that we get it right the first time,” Sandy said.
Looking to tie in 210 with the reinvigoration of downtown Brainerd, local business owners Marc Halverson and Brian Moon talked about the accessibility and safety for those who frequent the area.
“What message is Brainerd giving to pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” Moon asked. “Are you welcome? Are you invited? Do we want you here? So when you talk about gateway, this is part of that gateway message, that we're a family-friendly community. Live, work, play and stay in Brainerd. That was part of the comprehensive plan and we're creating a reason for that.”
Some additional comments focused on intersections, saying there are too many stoplights, badly timed stoplights and too few turn lanes.
“It's a busy corridor,” Halverson said. “I try to walk over to see Kelly (Bevans) across the street and hopefully the lights will be right, but it usually isn't. Sometimes you're better off to get in your car and drive, make a right (turn) around a couple of blocks and come back, just to go across the street.”
The meeting brought concerns about continued access to businesses and the walkability around those businesses.
Sandy said anytime you have these types of projects, there's tension. Brainerd wants the highway upgrades to have a positive economic development for the city, though the Minnesota Department of Transportation is not in the business of economic development, they are in the business of moving vehicles efficiently.
“We continue to say that it's about the residents of Brainerd, but it's about the business owners as well,” said Dave Badeaux, Brainerd mayor. “When you have a property on that corner, we have a responsibility, as a city, to make sure that we're putting you in the best position when we are redesigning a major roadway.”
As the meeting was an open forum discussion between the city and its members, Sandy said he was looking for direction from all those present on the project and the direction it should take.
“What I'm hearing is, the focus on crossings should really be in this core district,” Badeaux said.
Brainerd plans to gather more information on the cost and maintenance of color concrete and brick pavers while looking into specific areas where they can create a designated crossing that would stand out more than maybe some of the other crossings along the highway.
From an amenities standpoint, all those present wanted the city to have a better plan when it comes to strategically placing benches and other necessities around the city.
Along with a consensus of looking into dark sky lighting, the council and business owners were united on slowing traffic down as vehicles move through the city.
A group consisting of council members and business owners is being put together by Sandy to gather information in the coming months with plans to continue the discussion around the 2025 Highway 210 reconstruction project.