Crow Wing County Highway Engineer Tim Bray wants the county to ante up for half of the cost of building a diamond interchange on Highway 371 at the Pequot Lakes bypass. Half of the cost of the $8 million diamond interchange would be heaped on the county. MnDOT would be expected to pick up the balance. MnDOT stated that an on-grade signal intersection would cost about $1 million.
Bray said the Highway 371 bypass project is on a MnDOT short list.
“... Bray said he feels it’s important to speak in favor of putting a diamond interchange, likely with an overpass, in at the County Highway 11 intersection as initially proposed instead of an on-grade signal light intersection,” as reported in the Brainerd Dispatch.
Bray contends that with two Pequot Lakes School District schools on both sides of the proposed interchange safety is a consideration for recommending the diamond interchange option.
Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede, representative from the Pequot Lakes area, said: “My personal fear is that it’s inevitable there will be a school bus accident in a higher rate of speed at an on-grade intersection,” Thiede said. “I don’t know where the dollars are going to come from, but frankly as a safety issue I believe it is a very appropriate thing that we try to get them to build this. Because if it doesn’t get built now, it will take deaths later for it to be built and that’s my concern.”
The board agreed with Thiede’s contention and sent a letter supporting the diamond interchange to MnDOT.
Spending $7 million more — half having to be picked up by Crow Wing County taxpayers — is irresponsible.
A traffic light controlled intersection would be just as safe. Bray compared the proposed intersection to the one located at Highway 371 and County Highway 48, which is equipped with warning lights that alerts drivers that the signal is changing from green to red has been sufficient to avoid accidents at that busy intersection. In fact, that particular intersection is also close to Forestview Middle School.
The county board should reconsider spending county tax money in a manner that seems unnecessary.