DL concerned about 'whistle-free zone,' and some other Hwy 10 improvements
Minnesota Department of Transportation engineers Tom Lundberg and Jeff Perkins met with members of the public and the city council Monday afternoon to discuss the Highway 10 project.
The city has never strayed from its decision that it is sick of train whistles and wants to be rid of them as soon as possible. An issue has come up at the Washington Avenue crossing, though.
"I don't want to underplay it if there are problems," Alderman Bruce Imholte said.
The project will hopefully go through, with just the obstacle of a "longer review period," Perkins said.
The issue revolves around the fact that the median between lanes leading up to the railroad crossing must be 60 feet long. On the south side of the Washington Avenue crossing between the railroad tracks and Highway 10 only allows for a 48.5-foot long median.
In the original plan, the railroad tracks were scheduled to be moved 20 feet to the north, but after review, MNDOT decided against the move for two main reasons -- it would have cost $600,000 more to move the tracks from Washington Avenue to past Lake Avenue, and secondly, because last summer during construction season, the crossings at Kris Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Washington Avenue and Lake Street would have all been closed at the same period of time for about three months.
Lundberg said with the expansion of the 48.5-foot median will make it difficult for trucks to turn left from Highway 10 heading east. "Every truck turning will hop that," he said of the median.
While the city is dealing with the federal agency on the Whistle-Free Zone, MnDOT has stepped in and offered to work with the city on getting the median issue resolved.
Also, the median on the north side of the tracks will likely be rising. Vehicle drivers are ignoring the median and either driving over it or making a U-turn on the railroad tracks to get to businesses on the northeast side of the tracks. Instead of the existing 4.5-inch height of the median, it will be raised to 6 inches.
A roundabout has been suggested at the intersection of McKinley Avenue and Frazee Street.
"Frankly, it wouldn't fit there," Lundberg said. "It's not really a doable application."
Although, after more discussion and review of the area, he said it could be done but more land would need to be dedicated to the area for the roundabout than redevelopment.
Perkins suggested the consultant the city hired to study the area take the roundabout into consideration as well.
City Administrator Bob Louiseau said it might be even more difficult to have a round-about in that location because it would involve private property, like Central Market, for example.
Mayor Larry Buboltz also suggested looking at putting back in free right turns that were in original plans but taken out at some point.
"Some of this was looked at five, six years ago. Certainly things have changes," Perkins said.
MnDOT has agreed to assist with up to $75,000 in the lighting project along Highway 10 and the frontage road. There will be 16 lights along the wall.
"No. 1 concern is the look of lights," Scott Mehlhaff said, uncertain what color and style the lights and poles would be.
Public Utilities' Roger Moltzan said the city and PUC already have the poles and fixtures so it makes sense to use them. He suggested the fixtures could be changed once they get to the Gateway District.
Mehlhaff said he'd like to see a "cohesive" look with lights, having the same from one end of town to the other.
MnDOT's architect is closing in on completing the design concept for the overlook near Holiday Inn.
There will be a main area with planters and places for people to sit, a wavy trail to walk near the lake, a central feature with trees, and steps down to a grassy area with shrubs and picnic benches here and there.
The Pelican River Watershed District is also working to restore the shoreline and eventually wants to place larger rocks along the shore for people to walk down to and fish from.
Lundberg said work on the overlook will likely take place later next fall, and the shoreline will be done some in the fall and more the following spring.
MnDOT is planning a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for early April, for updates on the project.