BAXTER -- Spring's official arrival means the extensive Highway 210 reconstruction project in west Brainerd and east Baxter is approaching with greater speed.
Utilities work -- as Qwest Communications and Minnegasco relocate lines affected by the pending roadwork -- is like sighting a robin this year. The utility work is one of the first signs of the road construction that will alter spring and summer driving patterns and affect businesses along the highway, also known as Washington Street.
About 25 people gathered at Burger King this morning in a Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce steering committee meeting that included representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation offices in Baxter and from contractor Anderson Brothers.
The group discussed signs that will be used with a MnDOT "open for business" logo to help direct consumers to detour routes or to changing accesses for area businesses as the road project affects specific blocks.
The area affected runs east to west from the Mississippi River to the Highway 371 intersection and north and south from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad corridor to the Northland Arboretum. Main detour streets will take traffic on James and Charles streets, which run parallel to the highway.
Today the chamber's steering committee met to discuss possible promotions during the construction period, including block parties that could include sidewalk sales and a marketing cooperative effort. A smaller subcommittee was formed to discuss marketing strategies. Several comments from business representatives included a desire to have four or five things to choose from such as weekly drawings or promotions, group advertising and potential coupon books to draw customers to the area during the construction period. The subcommittee is expected to return with recommendations. Businesses also were concerned about early notification when utilities will be cut off during the project. MnDOT officials stressed they would communicate those concerns to utilities.
Weekly meetings begin in May to provide updates on the construction project. MnDOT will meet with utilities representatives and the project contractor Anderson Brothers before the Wednesday meetings. The goal is to provide timely project updates, particularly for businesses affected by the construction.
A MnDOT open house regarding the project is set for 5 p.m. April 22 at MnDOT headquarters in Baxter. The meeting will be another public opportunity to look at the project, see exhibits and ask questions.
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