Help is in the plans for motorists fed up with traffic congestion in west Brainerd, but drivers beware -- it won't be arriving until 2003.
In 2002 the Minnesota Department of Transportation is scheduled to begin the proposed Highway 210 reconstruction project from the Washington Street bridge to Highway 371 in Baxter, with completion scheduled for the following year.
Jeff Hulsether, Brainerd city engineer, said several improvements are proposed by MnDOT for the highway, though everything is contingent on Crow Wing County, Brainerd and Baxter approval, as well as on public information meetings to be held June 21 at MnDOT offices in Baxter.
Roger Risser, MnDOT pre-design project manager, said the cost of the Highway 210 reconstruction project is estimated at $3 million.
The proposed plans are being considered to allow quicker travel in west Brainerd, where traffic at stoplights can stack up dozens of car-lengths back, even during weekdays.
"Fourth Street (Northwest) and Washington (Street) have the most traffic in the Brainerd lakes area," Hulsether said. "That is only one of two stoplights in west Brainerd and drivers, rather than trying to move onto (Highway) 210 from side streets, are going to Fourth (Street Northwest) to get onto (Highway) 210."
Construction would probably begin with a realignment on County Road 48, done in conjunction with the project by Crow Wing County. Instead of going to Laurel Street, Hulsether said, County Road 48 would be extended to intersect at Baxter Drive. Charles Street would then be extended to the new portion of County Road 48. This would allow for another railroad crossing to be put in to ease traffic, as well as give better access to and from businesses on that side of Highway 210.
The plan also includes a Brainerd project to widen both sides of Northwest Fourth Street approaching Highway 210 to four lanes instead of three.
The Highway 210 reconstruction project would be reconstructed and right-handed turning lanes would be added on Highway 210 as well as to side streets approaching the highway.
Turning lanes would be lengthened approaching Fourth Street Northwest, which could mean closing access from Fifth Street Northwest to Highway 210, Hulsether said.
The storm sewer system on Highway 210 is also being replaced to handle more rain. Currently, heavy rains bring street flooding.
The overpass on Highway 210, over the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad spur in Baxter, would be replaced by a beebo, which is a smaller, half-circle tunnel, to allow access from areas south to the Paul Bunyan Trail.
The idea of removing the current overpass, Hulsether said, is for possible future extension of the Paul Bunyan Trail down County Road 48 to the Crow Wing County State Park.
MnDOT would be working on the project in phases and Hulsether said they plan on keeping traffic open on the highway, though there could be some detouring at times.
As far as any possible impact the Highway 371 realignment project will have on traffic in west Brainerd, Hulsether said the difference probably will be negligible.
"The bypass will have some impacts on seasonal peaks and weekend traffic, but in terms of our day traffic it's not going to be noticeable," he said. "A majority of trips (on Highway 210) are local traffic in nature."
Hulsether said in the future Brainerd could be adding stoplights at Jackson Street and Fourth Street Northwest, Laurel Street and Fourth Street Southwest and at College Drive and Fourth Street Southwest. He added no definite plans have been made for these adjustments, however.
Baxter is also extending College Drive to Highway 48, and four-way stop signs will be installed there.
Outside of Brainerd and Baxter there will also be some road work. Risser said a signal light is going to be put in at Wise Road and Highway 25 in September, and Memorial Gardens Road will be reconnected to Highway 25. A stoplight is also being put in at County Road 18 and Highway 371 in Nisswa.
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