BAXTER — Traffic.
Decades ago, the surge of summer traffic was a rite of the seasonal influx. Relief came with late fall after leaf-lookers were back in their homes. Population growth along with the lakes area’s move to micropolitan status as a regional retail hub, the traffic — from commuters, cabin owners, tourists and residents — has gone hand-in-hand with development.
From an economic perspective, there are benefits and costs. Baxter is currently looking at both. Benefits come in economic development, shopping choices and jobs. Costs come in terms of city services, traffic control and public safety. The city has more development going on now than it has in the past four years when the Great Recession stopped construction cold.
With Costco, Olive Garden and Discount Tires, along with associated strip mall development under construction now, there are significant changes ahead for a concentrated few city blocks in Baxter. Changes are not too far off. Costco and Olive Garden expect to open in October.
Baxter recently received an update to the city’s transportation study looking at traffic changes anticipated with the Costco’s addition. The store is expected to draw customers from a wide area. The transportation study area looked at current traffic patterns from Highway 371 going down to Highland Scenic Drive (also known as County Highway 48) west toward Perch Lake and north to Highway 210. Inside the study area are roads with growing familiarity because of past development with Walmart and current construction — such as Glory Road, Isle Drive, Elder Drive and Forthun Road. In addition to the retail stores in play, Essentia Health’s Baxter Clinic is adding to the mix along with Cuyuna Regional Medical Center’s purchase of land nearby with plans to build along Isle Drive in the future.
Currently the average daily traffic (ADT) volume amounts to 47,000 vehicles per day meeting at the intersection of highways 210 and 371 in Baxter. In three to five years, based on construction patterns and expected development, the ADT volume is expected to climb to 55.500. And when the project area around Walmart and Costco reaches what is considered “full build-out” the ADT volume at the 371/210 intersection is expected to be 72,500 vehicles.
Average daily traffic volume as of May.
➤ 27,000 going north on Highway 371 from the Highway 210 intersection.
➤ 20,000 going east on Highway 210 into Brainerd and 13,800 going west into Baxter from the 371 intersection.
➤ 11,100 on Highway 371 south of Glory Road.
➤ 8,750 east on Glory Road, which drops to 3,000 after Walmart, and to 1,000 after Isle Drive.
➤ 11,500 west on College Road.
➤ 5,300 on Highland Scenic Drive, which drops to 3,750 as it reaches Highway 210.
➤ 1,100 on Forthun Road by Home Depot.
➤ 2,000 on Foley Drive by Home Depot.
➤ 3,300 to 3,600 on Elder Drive.
➤ 1,200 on Isle Drive.
To determine traffic volume in three to five years, the study looked at current development and land use. And projections assumed Isle Drive would be connected to Highland Scenic Drive. WSB & Associates, Minneapolis, with Ron Bray, construction services vice president, and Chuck Rickart, transportation senior project manager, recently outlined the study’s findings for Baxter looking specifically at the Elder Drive and Isle Drive area. They looked at Minnesota Department of Transportation crash data and daily traffic volumes based on traffic for a 24-hour period. In the study area, all intersections except the one at Elder Drive and Foley Road, exceeded the statewide average for severity rates based on similar intersections, WSB reported. Intersections with the highest severity rates were: Highway 210 at Highway 371; Highway 371 and Glory Road; Elder Drive at Glory Road and Elder Drive at Forthun Road.
As part of the study, WSB estimated trip-generation rates, looking at anticipated development, peak hours for traffic and travel patterns using extensive surveys for other similar land uses.
According to the report, 30 percent of the full future build-out traffic will be realized in the next three to five years.
Average daily traffic volume anticipated in three to five years:
➤ 29,500 on Highway 371 north of the Highway 210 intersection.
➤ 26,000 on Highway 210 east of the Highway 371 intersection toward Brainerd,
16,500 on Highway 210 from the Highway 371 intersection west toward Baxter.
➤ 12,000 east on Glory Road from Highway 371, which drops to 4,500 after Walmart, and to 1,000 after Isle Drive.
➤ 12,000 west on College Road off Highway 371.
➤ 7,000 on Highland Scenic Drive, which drops to 4,500 as it reaches Highway 210.
➤ 5,000 on Forthun Road by Home Depot to 4,500 as it connects to Foley Drive.
➤ 3,000 on Foley Drive by Home Depot.
➤ 9,000 to 8,000 on Elder Drive by Costco.
➤ 3,500 on Isle Drive.
Average daily traffic after the area achieves full build-out:
➤ 38,200 on Highway 371 north of the Highway 210 intersection.
Baxter and 39,400 south of the intersection.
➤ 34,000 on Highway 210 east of the Highway 371 intersection toward Brainerd,
21,500 on Highway 210 from the Highway 371 intersection west toward Baxter.
➤ 18,500 east on Glory Road from Highway 371, which drops to 9,000 after Walmart, and to 2,200 after Isle Drive.
➤ 14,500 west on College Road off Highway 371.
➤ 18,000 on Highland Scenic Drive west of Highway 371, which drops to 9,000 as it reaches Highway 210 south of White Sand Lake.
➤ 5,000 on Forthun Road by Home Depot to 7,500 as it connects to Foley Drive.
➤ 4,500 on Foley Drive by Home Depot, increasing to possibly 11,000 for a crossing at Inglewood Drive.
➤ 13,500 to 12,000 on Elder Drive by Costco.
➤ 7,800 to 7,100 on Isle Drive, possibly increasing to 9,500 for a connection to Highland Scenic Drive. This would create another north/south route using Isle Drive as the connector to reach Forthun, then Foley and then Inglewood all on the east side of Perch Lake.
To meet traffic needs, WSB suggested an improved connection from Forthun Road to Highway 210 using Foley Drive would offer traffic relief for Elder Drive and Glory Road. The study also reported two-lane roads on Elder and Isle drives will not keep up with traffic capacity. A three-lane urban section was suggested as a remedy by adding a center turn lane and adding right-lane turn lanes at intersections. Expanding to four lanes may be needed in the future. The study also looked at pedestrian and bike traffic.
WSB concluded there could be 50,000 trips per day could be generated in the area south of Highway 210 to Highland Scenic Drive and west of Highway 371 to Perch Lake once the area is fully developed. Based on traffic flow for full development, WSB reported Isle Drive will serve a “critical function providing for development access, regional mobility and traffic relief to other area roadways.”
A connection of Isle Drive to Highland Scenic Drive is expected to particularly benefit congestion on Glory Road. WSB concluded three-lane roadways with the center turn lane on Isle Drive should handle traffic for perhaps 20 years, but a four-lane expansion is recommended to handle future expansion. A signal light was also suggested at Glory Road and Isle Drive to replace the two-way stop now in place.
Future roundabouts may be in play for connections such as Isle and Highland Scenic Drive. Trevor Walter, Baxter public works director, said different Crow Wing County highway engineers have had differing views on connections and Tim Bray, the county’s highway engineer is still on military deployment and isn’t expected back until later this summer. Baxter Council member Jim Klein questioned if everything came to a stop when one man was called up. Other questions outstanding included where the access would be for the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center property. The council talked about putting in a signal light at Highway 210 and Inglewood and closing the light at Knollwood Drive to make the railway crossing possible.
WSB’s representatives stressed the importance of Isle Drive and preserving land so there will be room to expand the street width in the future.