BAXTER — Construction to extend Isle Drive could begin spring of 2014.
As the Baxter City Council looked at an Isle Drive and Elder Drive transportation study Tuesday, they were asked to look into the future.
Extending Isle Drive creates a north and south corridor potentially connecting Highland Scenic Drive to Foley Drive.
Baxter’s traffic consultants, WSB & Associates of Minneapolis, prepared an intersection control evaluation report following guidelines to provide a look at traffic counts out 10 years. But 2023 is like an object in a vehicle side mirror — it may closer than it appears.
Council members didn’t take any action in the workshop session. The Isle Drive extension recommendations will be back before them on March 5 when a decision is expected.
Trevor Walter, project works director, said the city will need time to work with residents in the affected area. He said an important aspect of the road project includes the ability to extend city water and sewer to residents using septic systems on Perch Lake, which is in the city’s well-head protection area. Council members looked again at a possible future connection where Foley Road would cross Highway 210 to link with Inglewood Drive. It would mean a railroad crossing and potentially moving a stop light from Knollwood Drive.
“I don’t disagree with it,” Mayor Darrel Olson said, noting the current focus may be on completing the Isle Drive project first. “I don’t think it’s on the table right now.”
Another consideration is how the proposed three-lane Isle Drive extension will connect with Highland Scenic Drive to the south. Concept options include a roundabout where Isle Drive extends to meet Highland Scenic and Ironwood Drive as the best recommended traffic control. The council was told the roundabout also appeals as the traffic control with the shortest lines and no need to wait out a light when traffic is light.
Cost of the roundabout, which involves a discussion with the county highway department, could be $825,000. A signal light intersection is estimated to cost $950,000 without considering engineering or right-of-way costs.
The traffic study found roundabouts report a 35 percent reduction in crashes compared to signal light intersections. The proposal calls for a future stop light signal intersection at Isle Drive and Glory Road.
For most of its life, the extended Isle Drive would have two lanes of dedicated traffic in either direction and a center turn lane. The plan calls for a bike lane at the edge of the road and concrete sidewalks as the area develops.
Council member Rob Moser said he was not in total agreement on the road design but was bending to the council’s consensus. Moser preferred to separate the bike trail from the street. Moser said he couldn’t jump up and down for joy about it but it would be nice to have a full corridor there leaving him a bit torn over the project.
Council members noted it would have been nice to have a crystal ball in the beginning to anticipate the growth and traffic needs earlier. Now the council is faced with trying to imagine what the area will look like in 10 and 20 years and what traffic patterns may be.
Currently Highland Scenic Drive, also known as Crow Wing County Highway 48, handles an average of 4,400 vehicles per day. Ironwood Drive carries about 1,200 vehicles per day.