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Safe routes to Harrison Elementary: City proposal aimed at pedestrian friendly zone

A median and flashing push-button pedestrian signals are among the proposed improvements.

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Harrison Elementary School on Oak Street in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

The city of Brainerd intends to apply for a $500,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation for a Safe Routes to School project at Harrison Elementary School.

The goal of the federal Safe Routes to School program is to identify improvements around schools that could be done to develop safer routes for students to walk and bike to schools. This project would help further that initiative near Harrison Elementary School. The city has already completed projects near Lowell and Garfield schools.

Proposed improvements near Harrison include a median on Oak Street between Southeast 15th and 16th streets, along with bump outs on the corners of those intersections. The city just placed sidewalks on Southeast 15th and 16th streets earlier this year, north and south of Oak Street.

Medians provide refuge for pedestrians, reduce crossing distances and create tighter driving lanes, therefore helping to reduce traffic speeds, city staff told members of the Brainerd City Council’s safety and public works committee Monday, Oct. 18.

The proposed project would also include installing rapid flashing beacons — or flashing, push-button pedestrian crossing beacons — on Oak Street.

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“Right now there’s just the flashing beacons on Oak Street that flash when a school zone is up. They’re kind of out of date, and they’re no longer really installed anymore,” City Engineer and Public Works Director Paul Sandy told the committee.

Mayor Dave Badeaux asked how the proposed median would look, and Sandy said the city can essentially design it however it wants to — concrete, greenspace, etc. While OK with the median in front of the school, Badeaux said he isn’t sure how he feels about it extending past the intersections of Southeast 15th and 16th streets, as preliminary designs presented the committee show.

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Preliminary designs show a proposed Safe Routes to School project near Harrison Elementary School in southeast Brainerd. Contributed

Committee Chair Mike O’Day said he likes the median in front of the school as well and believes it is the safest choice.

The full city council signed off Monday on a letter of intent to apply for a grant for the project cost, which is roughly $500,000 and the highest grant amount allowed. Staff will work with the Region Five Development Commission on the letter of intent and to make sure the city is eligible to fill out the full application, which will be due sometime in 2022, Sandy said.

The application would go to the department of transportation, which has $7.5 million in infrastructure grants to award for projects to be constructed in 2022 or 2023, under which the Harrison project would fall.

Council member Tad Erickson noted his support for the project but abstained from voting, due to conflict of interest with his job at Region Five.

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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .
Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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