It’s been a long road for the College Drive project to become a reality.
That project officially became a reality Friday when Brainerd city officials sponsored a ribbon-cutting on College Drive in front of Central Lakes College (CLC) to honor the completion of the project.
Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said officials spent five years discussing the College Drive project. The project consists of three roundabouts and stretches from South Fourth Street near Brainerd High School to Mississippi River Parkway, a block east of Crow Wing County Road 48 in Baxter. The project involved reconstructing College Drive from a two-lane to a four-lane roadway and includes two traffic signals, drainage, retaining walls and sidewalk and trail improvements.
The ceremony conducted before the ribbon-cutting was held in the Business and Industry Center at CLC. In attendance were Brainerd Mayor James Wallin; Brainerd council members Mary Koep, Lucy Nesheim, Bonnie Cumberland and Dale Parks; Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson; Ron Bray, of WSB & Associates of Minneapolis, who was project engineer of the project; and staff from Anderson Brothers Construction. Anderson Brothers was the project manager of the project.
At the ceremony officials thanked all who were involved in the extensive project. Hulsether said the project was a collaboration between many entities and everyone, including Baxter, Crow Wing County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, CLC and the Brainerd School District all worked together on the project.
“This has been quite the project,” said Hulsether. “... and now it is open to traffic. It’s looking great.”
Hulsether said the project is officially complete, except for a few minor items such as landscaping, which includes the planting of 260 trees which will be done later in the spring. Hulsether said he is pleased that the project finished on schedule, despite the rainy season.
With all the rain, Bray said that Anderson Brothers did a wonderful job in making sure the job stayed on task and that the rain didn’t cause more problems. Bray expects vehicle traffic to grow significantly on College Drive.
Wallin said seeing the bridge complete is nostalgic, as he remembered 30-some years ago when the area around College Drive was mainly sand and people would get stuck. Wallin said later on, a bituminous surface was installed. Wallin said the College Drive project also reminds him of when the city reconstructed the Laurel Street bridge. He recalls then Mayor C. Elmer Anderson and Council President Jiggs Blanck driving across the bridge waving.
“This is so exciting,” said Wallin. “There are 15,000 people a day going through this road and I think it’ll increase by 200-300 people a day. It was a lot of money but it will last for years.”
CLC President Larry Lundblad said there were some trying times through the summer getting students to and from the college because of the construction, but overall the project improves the safety of the students and pedestrians.
Nesheim said council members called the College Drive project “perseverance.” Nesheim said it was a great project and a lot of work was put into it. She said council members met monthly for two years to make sure safety was the first priority.
“This road is important to the future,” said Nesheim. “And I want to thank you and everyone involved who made this happen.”
■ A few tips for motorists driving the roundabout include:
• Choose the correct lane approaching the roundabout. Left lane is for left-turners, right lane is for right-turners. The through movement can be made from both lanes.
• Yield to vehicles in the circulating lanes (note, there may be more than one circulating lane). Yield does not mean merge. When you see a gap, you may enter the roundabout.
• Do not stop in the circulating lane. Do not change lanes within the circle.
• If an emergency vehicle is near and you are within the circulatory lanes, continue through the roundabout and pull over once you exit the roundabout provided there is adequate space for the emergency vehicle to pass you.
• All traffic should travel counter-clockwise through the roundabout.