Highway 10 access to new LP-A High School Plan puts safety first
A proposed plan for safety and accessibility improvements to the Highway 10 corridor through Lake Park -- which would include a new city street and highway access for the soon-to-be-completed Lake Park-Audubon High School -- was presented at a public meeting Thursday night in Lake Park.
Chris Chromy, senior transportation engineer for Bolton & Menk, Inc. -- the engineering firm retained by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to do an access management study on the Highway 10 corridor in Lake Park -- presented the plan to a group of about 36 interested area residents.
Besides creating a new, full Highway 10 access, complete with turn lanes, for the new city street being constructed to access the high school, the plan also includes improved lighting; closing the existing highway median crossings at the Cenex cooperative; a frontage road extension to access the new intersection by the high school; elevating the existing approach to the County Highway 7/2nd Street highway intersection to make it safer; and frontage road improvements near the Lake Park Liquor Store.
Chromy said preliminary rough estimates put the cost of the project at around $840,000, with about $645,000 of that cost to be paid for by MnDOT, and the remaining $195,000 to be funded by the city.
Though the cost is fairly steep, Chromy said, this is because the project is "not just a new city street access."
"It opens up an area of land for residential and commercial growth -- a new area of town that can grow into the future," he said.
Also, Chromy added, "I don't think we can skimp on safety too much when you have (vehicles traveling at) these speeds, and inexperienced drivers (i.e., students coming to and from the high school)."
Limiting highway access to "well-spaced intersections" -- and closing non-essential access points -- will help prevent accidents, he noted.
"Crashes in high speed (driving) environments usually do not have good endings," Chromy added.
The preferred plan presented at Thursday's meeting includes short-term, mid-term and long-term improvements, to incorporate future development along the corridor, he said.
Now that the plan has been presented, Chromy said, the next step will be for the city, county and MnDOT to adopt the plan -- which is the "preferred plan" out of a set of four alternatives that were proposed to the transportation advisory committee that was set up to oversee the project.
After the plan has been adopted, the city will have to agree to make the necessary short-term safety improvements in order for MnDOT to grant the permit for the new highway access, Chromy noted.
Though this is the preferred plan, he said, "compromises need to occur" and some design improvements still need to be made before the final plan is approved.
Shiloh Wahl, District 4 planning director for MnDOT, said that this has been a "city-led project."
"We (MnDOT) were approached by the city and school district for access to Highway 10 from the new road (being built) to the school."
Because Highway 10 is a high-speed, inter-regional transportation corridor between Fargo and the Twin Cities, "we wanted to look at the whole network of the highway corridor through Lake Park, to determine where would be the best and safest access point for the new school.
So the city, county and MnDOT all entered into an agreement to do the planning study. Recently, Wahl added, the committee met with business owners and stakeholders along that corridor to "hear their concerns and incorporate them into the best alternative that we could find."
Though MnDOT wants a good outcome for the project -- namely, that the highway access be completed in time for the new school to open for classes this fall -- "safety is one of our main concerns," Wahl said.