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Our Opinion: Brainerd's South Sixth Street should be three lanes

The Brainerd City Council has been tasked by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with choosing which alternative of a reconstructed South Sixth Street it would like to see in Brainerd - a three-lane project, a five-lane project or a hybrid...

The Brainerd City Council has been tasked by the Minnesota Department of Transportation with choosing which alternative of a reconstructed South Sixth Street it would like to see in Brainerd - a three-lane project, a five-lane project or a hybrid two-lane project with options for a center median, bike lanes and parking.

It is our hope that the council goes with a three-lane design.

For decades, South Sixth Street in Brainerd was one of the main thoroughfares for those heading into the lakes area, and it was engineered for that purpose. Those days, however, are no more. The justification for five lanes is tenuous at best. The traffic counts aren't there to make the argument for what amounts to an over-engineered street. The opening of the Highway 371 bypass into Baxter in 2000 took traffic pressure off South Sixth Street, also known as Business Highway 371.

As Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether noted in a previous Dispatch story, for the past 10-15 years, traffic counts on South Sixth have been about 12,000 vehicles per day. Those traffic loads do not justify a five-lane road. And while we understand the business community's concern with reducing the number of lanes, we believe traffic of all types would be accommodated by wider traffic lanes. A signal light at the Willow Street intersection would also assist drivers cross South Sixth Street.

A three-lane roadway makes the most sense. It wouldn't require additional right-of-away to be acquired from abutting property owners as the five-lane plan would; it would slow traffic down on a roadway that's currently not very pedestrian friendly; and it would allow the city and MnDOT to look at other amenities.

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But perhaps most important, a three-lane road could transform South Sixth Street from a thoroughfare through the city into a gateway into the city. We want to invite people into Brainerd, not rush them through the city. A South Sixth Street project, carefully considered, is a step toward encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use the corridor, building on investments in the downtown area. Brainerd has an opportunity to enhance how people perceive the city and that could have positive ripple effects on multiple levels by creating an inviting place for residents and visitors to do more than just pass through.

To that end, we hope the city strongly considers some of the options proposed by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, such as bike lanes, a center boulevard and more attractive streetscaping.

Brainerd has a chance to improve itself for both residents and businesses. We hope it won't be a lost opportunity.

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Articles:

Brainerd City Council: Public weighs in on South Sixth Street reconstruction
http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3706200-brainerd-city-council-publi...

Business leaders weigh in on South Sixth Street reconstruction options
http://www.brainerddispatch.com/news/3704846-business-leaders-weigh-sout...

See the plans online:

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MnDOT: www.dot.state.mn.us/d3/brd/

Charles Marohn: www.abetter6th.org

Related Topics: BRAINERD
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