Roundabouts topic of concern for 2026 Highway 210 project
In 2020, the project team conducted a survey asking people what they wanted to see done with the project that was presented to the people of Brainerd Wednesday, Aug. 31.
BRAINERD — Over 30 business owners along Highway 210 and Washington Street voiced their concerns Wednesday, Aug. 31, over the proposed 2026 highway project.
Years in the making, Luke Wehseler, project manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation; and Chris Hiniker, project manager with Short Elliott Hendrickson, presented the preliminary proposal to business owners at the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning.
“We're going to gather all the comments we get from this public engagement, address anything that needs to be addressed, and then bring that to the city of Brainerd and get municipal consent for this project,” Wehseler said.
In 2020, the project team conducted a survey asking people what they wanted to see done with the project. With over 1,000 responses, the feedback they received had overall traffic safety, moving through town and access to businesses as the top three priorities from the survey.
Hiniker said the 4-mile project will be split into five different segments, spanning from Baxter Drive to Pine Shores Road; the five segments are west, bridge, central, mall/railyard and east.
After Hiniker and Wehseler went through the scope of the project, they opened up the floor for questions or comments.
The east mall and rail yard segment, from Kingwood Street to 10th Avenue Northeast would see a dramatic change as this section would have the installation of two roundabouts at highways 210 and 25, and at Highway 210 and Eighth Avenue Northeast.
The roundabout at Highway 210 and Eighth Avenue Northeast would only have three legs, cutting off access to Eighth Avenue Northeast south of the intersection.
Mike Doran, funeral director at Nelson Doran Funeral Home, located at 202 Eighth Ave. NE., asked why access to Highway 210 was being limited at the Eighth Avenue Northeast roundabout as the proposed change could directly affect his business.
“The primary reason is (because) what this design is doing is it's splitting up the flow, so that each intersection will work much more smoothly,” Hiniker said. “We don't want the complication of adding a fourth leg to this roundabout, it doesn't work well with this solution.”
If access to Highway 210 was cut off from Eighth Avenue Northeast, Doran said he may lose business if he's required to take a funeral procession through multiple multi-lane roundabouts
Doran's concern with trying to take multiple vehicles through the roundabout is the safety of his customers and the ease of accessing a major thoroughfare with a line of slow-moving vehicles in a procession.
Hiniker said the purpose of not adding the fourth leg to the roundabout on Eighth Avenue Northeast is to keep the traffic getting onto or off Highway 25 to a single roundabout and to not confuse drivers by giving them multiple options.
The issue of moving through town safely and accessing the roundabouts was a concern of TCBX Trucking’s vice president of operations, P.J. O’Brien who said he would be sending about eight semitractors through those roundabouts twice a day.
“I've never talked to anybody that lives in the Brainerd area that says, ‘You know, I would love two roundabouts on 210,’” O’Brien said.
O’Brien went on to say he could see a single roundabout at highways 210 and 25 with a signal light farther east on 210.
Feeling the voices of those stating their concerns of how this will impact their businesses were not being heard, Brainerd Industrial Center owner Mike Higgins said the plan, “is big city design, big city thinking and big city engineering trying to come up to Brainerd.”
“This is Brainerd, you need to do it Brainerd style; our culture, our way,” Higgins said before storming out of the meeting.
In an interview with the Dispatch after the meeting, Higgins said what set him off was the way they were talking to and treating those present.
“It's a change that could destroy his business … his investment in this community,” Higgins said of other business owners along the project corridor.
After the morning meeting, Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux said the city needs to hear the concerns of its residents and its business owners to represent them accurately, but sees this project as a once-in-a-lifetime change to the city of Brainerd.
“This will be a generational change in the way that that road operates,” Badeaux said. “From the city standpoint, we're trying to get it to fall in line with some of the visions that we have in terms of walkability, in terms of access to the buildings, not just in vehicles, but also on foot.”
Badeaux said he would encourage anyone with thoughts or concerns to contact City Hall, as Brainerd’s elected officials are supposed to represent their community and the needs of that community.
“I believe the light is probably the best option,” Badeaux said. “I also have specifically said that I would like to see a light there and I would like to see a light at Fifth Street by McDonald's. And none of that stuff is reflected in what moves forward and it's frustrating.”