NISSWA -- When Highway 371 North expands to four lanes, its intersection with Main Street in Nisswa will take on quite a different look.
But just what that look will be has yet to be determined.
About 30 people attended an informational meeting at the Nisswa Community Center Wednesday, coordinated by the Nisswa Chamber of Commerce and the city of Nisswa, to discuss the Highway 371 project.
Nisswa Mayor Harold Kraus presented two options at the meeting -- to realign the existing Main Street and Highway 371 intersection, which leads to the heart of downtown Nisswa, or develop an intersection south of Main Street that would lead to a service road that would connect to Main Street.
With the first option highway engineers would attempt to square the intersection as much as possible, said Kraus, and the intersection would become a full intersection with permanent stoplights.
The second option would be more like a bypass, allowing traffic along Highway 371 to continue past downtown Nisswa without stops. The main intersection, proposed to be located south of Dick Parks Gas Co., would be fully signalized, however. The service road would jog out at a right angle from Highway 371 for a few blocks, then curve around another few blocks to join Main Street.
With the second option, traffic going and coming from Main Street to Highway 371 would only be able to make right turns. There would be no traffic allowed across the highway, similar to what the Minnesota Department of Transportation did on the Baxter business strip of Highway 371.
Teresa Berg, who works in downtown Nisswa, had concerns with the second option.
"It would be a little hard to get out of Nisswa and if tourists have a hard time, they're not going to come," she said. "The tourist industry is a huge part of Nisswa and to make it more difficult for people to get to the stores is just not a good thing."
One benefit to the second option is that with the bypass, Main Street in Nisswa, which also is Crow Wing County Road 18, would be turned back to the city, meaning the city could improve downtown through street lights, streetscapes, new sidewalks and sidewalk benches, among other things.
"If we stay as we are, we're going to be restricted with what we can do on Main Street," because it is a county state aid road, Kraus said.
Berg said she also understood that reasoning behind possibly choosing the second option.
Mark Meixner, who owns Positive North real estate company in Nisswa, said he most liked the bypass of the two options, as did a majority of those who attended the meeting.
"It'll be a problem going out of town to make a left turn, but ultimately it's the way we'll have to go to get to downtown," Meixner said. "If I had to choose I'd go with No. 2. It's a necessity."
Kraus said the bypass to Main Street option has been discussed in one form or another since 1998, when the city participated in MnDOT's Transportation Action Model program. The Highway 371 North improvement project has accelerated the possibility.
"We're at a juncture here where we're going to have to fish or cut bait," Kraus said. The city of Nisswa will continue taking comments from the public, he said. The city has to give a recommendation to MnDOT, which will implement the intersection project.
The next meeting concerning the project is scheduled for June 24 in Pequot Lakes.
Construction on the project isn't scheduled to begin until 2010, if state funding is approved. The entire project scope covers about 16 miles of Highway 371 North, from Crow Wing County Road 18 in Nisswa to Cass County Road 42 in Pine River. Proposed improvements include the construction of a four-lane, divided highway with access control and service roads to existing development. Extensions and possible signalized intersections could be created at busier intersections, such as Crow Wing County Roads 15 and 16.
MnDOT has selected the segment because of safety and congestion problems along the Highway 371 corridor from Nisswa to Pine River.
Though bypasses of Pequot Lakes and Jenkins were discussed, MnDOT decided to run the four-lane highway through those two cities.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.