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Making plans west of town

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Making plans west of town
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Now that the Highway 10 realignment through Detroit Lakes is finished, transportation experts are going to take a look at some other parts of town.

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Patterned after the Connect Detroit Lakes project, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the City of Detroit Lakes and Becker County are joining together to study Highway 10 west of town and Highway 59 South.

"Safety concern and access management is the driver, really, of the study," MnDOT District 4 Planning Director Shiloh Wahl said.

The study will serve as a 20-year plan, so don't worry about dodging construction equipment this summer.

An open house will be held Thursday, Feb. 25, for public input on the study. Everyone is encouraged to come.

There is also a survey online at www.dot.state.mn.us/d4/projects/dlstudy/ with information on the project and a survey MnDOT would like the public to fill out and submit.

"We have an accessibility issue with pedestrians and bicyclists getting from your Detroit Lakes core residential downtown area out to Walmart and Menard's," Wahl said.

For motorists, it isn't a problem, but for pedestrians, that's another story.

"We're looking at connecting the two regions," he said of the downtown area and the "big box" area west of town.

The airport area is also being included in the study.

"If it expands, can we still get our frontage road in there," Wahl said is one of the points that will be addressed.

"The city's real concern here, and our reason for getting involved," said City Administrator Bob Louiseau, "there's a number of issues that come up relative to development out in the area along Highway 59 and Highway 10 going west."

The possible expansion of the airport is part of that.

"We want in our plan of how we're going to address that, what contingencies do we need to consider, what plans do we need to make," he continued. "Even if we upgrade some facilities at the airport (and don't expand the runway), it might have some impact on the transportation out there."

The commercial area along Highway 10 is also an issue for the city. Providing a frontage road to connect the city to west of town is important for the city as well.

Planning for the more distant future is in the plan, too.

"(There is) all of the land on the north side of Highway 10, pretty desirable land, and at some point -- we're looking at this being a 20-year, 30-year study -- it's likely there will be development proposals out there, so we would like to have a long-range plan in place to provide access and address some of the issues that will need to be addressed eventually," Louiseau said.

Studying the traffic patterns around Long Lake, with new developments popping up, will be beneficial to the city as well.

"Mainly, we're looking at how do we integrate our current development with the future development options that are sitting out in that area and then coordinate that with the county and MnDOT," he said.

The state asked the city and county to be involved with the project for input and to have a plan in place, regardless of when construction actually takes place.

The study encompasses the area between County Road 6 to the west side of Long Lake and up to Highway 10 -- with a couple exceptions. County Engineer Brad Wentz asked that two specific intersections be included in the study -- North Washington and Highway 34 and Highway 59 South and County Road 22.

Plans to reconstruct Washington Avenue North are scheduled for this summer, and during that construction, the North Washington Avenue and Highway 34 junction come up once again due to traffic issues.

"There are some delays there when trying to get on 34 from Washington or trying to cross 34. They added a turn lane on 34, which has helped some, but still there's some significant delays," Wentz said.

The study will see if the intersection warrants traffic signals or some sort of traffic control.

"They're studying that now and they'll have some answers for us, and we can see if we want to pursue doing something with this (summer's) project or waiting until the future," he added.

He said chances are the traffic signals wouldn't be put in place this summer, but the county could at least put turn lanes in place with this summer's project to accommodate the future signals if the intersection warrants them.

The issue of County Road 22 (to Shoreham) and Highway 59 South, "was a little bit out of the study area, but we've had some issues there with sight distance problems, and problems accessing and crossing 59, so as long as they're looking at the traffic patterns we thought we'd add that in there to look at also," Wentz said.

While the spot likely doesn't warrant signals, he said there might be some realignment of the turn lanes for better visibility.

The talked-about roundabout at Willow Street and Highway 59 South will also be a part of the study.

With all the development around Long Lake, there becomes a bigger traffic problem getting the traffic in that area to Highway 10.

"That's transportation -- if the airport were to expand and upgrade the airport to whatever the level of service they're looking for, and Long Lake (Road) would close, that would send all of your vehicle traffic to Highway 59, basically," Wahl said.

With an already busy intersection at Highway 59 and Highway 10, the added traffic will only increase the pressure.

"As part of the study, we want some sort of back route for if that issue would come to pass and Long Lake Road would close; what sort of back route could we get from that County Road 6 area and Long Lake development area to Highway 10," Wahl said.

All of those aspects will be included in the study, which is being performed by HR Green Company.

"That's what we're looking for (from the study), to get some recommendations and alternatives that are agreed to by all three parties," Wahl said.

It's then Wahl's job, depending on funding, to get a job slated for the next 5-10 years.

There will be three meetings in all, with the second one this spring to discuss alternatives and potential fixes from the consultant, and then a third in the fall to show the findings and suggestions from the study.

"Hopefully when it's done, we'll have a resolution from the City of Detroit Lakes (and the county) so they're in agreement," Wahl said.

With an agreement in place, regardless of who comes and goes from a job position, the agreement will show that the state, county and city were all in agreement. Then the study doesn't have to take place a second time.

"It's a very valuable process to go through for us -- the county and the city -- to be able to improve our traffic flow in that area as it grows in the future," Wentz said.

The open house is Feb. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Detroit Lakes. A presentation will take place at 6 p.m.

To fill out the study, visit www.dot.state.mn.us/d4/

projects/dlstudy.

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