SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL
HWY. 23/MNDOT MEETING
NOVEMBER 21, 2005
Mayor Jeff Thompson called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. Council members present were Jeff Bertram, Jean Soine, Dennis Zimmerman, and Tom Lindquist. Others present were Steve Helget, City Administrator; Jennifer Welling, Administrative Assistant; Scott Hedlund, SEH; Mike Jacobson, Paynesville Press; Stan Yarmon, Rodney Schultz, Mike Flanders, Dick Michaelis, Representative, Larry Hosch; Peter Waskiw, Senator, Michelle Fischbach; Mary Janotta, Steve McCorquodale, Rose Strodtman, Patrick Weidmann, MnDOT; Keith Voss, MnDOT; and Lowell Flaten, MnDOT.
The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
Thompson explained that the purpose of the meeting was to bring forward concerns the Council determined from the last meeting since the Draft EIS and route was announced.
MnDOT representatives, Legislatures, and Hwy. 23 Task Force members were introduced.
Thompson stated the Council’s number one concern being – full intersection at the airport for commercial use, safety, and economic reasons. Voss addressed the concern – it was the community that wanted access close to town; originally it was near the County Line Road. There is not room to put in two full intersections from Hwy. 55 to the airport (intersections need to be one mile apart).
Bertram asked if MnDOT understood the reasons for the accesses? Weidmann stated that MnDOT understands the balance of local access and travelers of the road. Initially the City did not want Roseville Road access so this was the compromise. West bound traffic that miss the exit will have to turn around at the Roseville Road. The planned accesses are for financial and safety reasons. Signage may be an option to alleviate the Council’s concern.
Bertram stated that he is familiar with the process that is happening and two things need to happen:
1. Municipal Consent
2. Unified Project
MnDOT and the City both want a by-pass; there is a need to compromise here and the use of common sense when working together.
Lindquist asked what the distance is from the Roseville Road to the Hwy. 55 intersection? Thompson said about 2.5 miles.
Zimmerman noted that persons that miss the exit at Hwy. 55 and 23, may see what they want to get to, but can’t get to it. They will ultimately not stop, until maybe their next time through. Voss agreed.
Weidmann mentioned the negotiation process to this point, during the EIS the City made several requests that MnDOT has agreed to. MnDOT feels they have put forward a good plan to meet the community’s concerns. The current cost estimate of the project is 46.5 million dollars of which 9 million dollars has been funded for construction and right of way. Support is needed from the City when MnDOT goes to Area Transportation Partnership (ATP) to achieve the following:
1. Send message to ATP to do the project in 2009 by the City giving Municipal Consent.
2. Support the project at the meeting.
The District Engineer has the final say on the project.
Thompson announced the Council’s second concern - maintaining and obtaining a business route through the City. Voss stated that the City of Willmar did this (business 71/buiness 23 a turn back to the City). Precedence has been set so this option could be considered and named business 23 and signed accordingly.
Weidmann stated that a business route should be named and signed with caution. When Willmar did their business route they had a problem with street addresses.
Thompson asked if a business route was determined, would it automatically be turned back to the City? Weidmann stated that since the City is less and 5,000 in population, Stearns County would take some part in it.
Thompson mentioned the Council’s third concern – Lake Ave. having and exit and entrance into the City and assistance with upgrading it. Weidmann stated that this would be difficult, as MnDOT is not planning on building Lake Ave. in this project and for sure would not be able to completely upgrade the road; however, grading is part of the job so some help could be given, but not all.
Bertram interjected that Lake Ave. is a natural touch down point. MnDOT can’t just dump traffic on this road. Weidmann responded that this project is driven by cost participation and dozens of statutes that say what can and can not be paid for.
Bertram added that the issue is getting traffic over the river and increasing the road to a 10-12 ton road. Voss asked who wanted access on Lake Ave.? This is the City’s road. According to MnDOT no access at this point would have worked better. Is this really MnDOT or the City’s problem?
Thompson asked where would the access be located if not on Lake Ave. (if we want five accesses)? Voss stated there would be one less access. Weidmann added that initially there were three accesses one on the northern end, one on the south end, and one at Hwy. 55.
Flaten asked if there is heavy truck traffic now on Lake Ave.? Thompson stated that it depends on weight and size as some vehicles are restricted at the railroad underpass so vehicles do use Minnie St. and then through downtown.
Zimmerman mentioned that the major truck traffic would go down Lake Ave. to Minnie St. to Industrial Loop.
Flaten stated that helping upgrade Lake Ave. may not be possible, as trunk highway funds can not be used for local road classification.
Weidmann added that it would be unconstitutional for MnDOT to pay for a new bridge across the river, but could help a little way down on Lake Ave. and the County may be able help.
Bertram explained that five exists/entrances were requested early on. This was a problem that Richmond, Cold Spring, and Rockville ran into when MnDOT did no stick to what they said they would do. If MnDOT can’t afford to help with a bridge, the City can’t afford it; we need to work together.
Thompson noted that as a City this is a first for us for this type of project, and MnDOT does this all the time so please bare with the City as we ask the what ifs, and whys.
Weidmann responded that the number of accesses pose a funding concern, but would bring the City’s concerns back and explore some of the options.
Lindquist mentioned that this is a difficult project with the river, railroad, and two major highways. MnDOT can not close off County Road #33 due to emergency vehicle access.
Weidmann understands the City’s concern; however, the State may not be able to meet all the demands the City is requesting.
Thompson reiterated that the City has not done this before and will be considering a Municipal Consent soon and once that is done it seems that the City has “given away the farm” and there is no turning back. Voss stated that this is big step and serious time, as it is an integral piece and last chance to talk about the big issues. Weidmann added that there are some options that may be available and some not impossible.
Zimmerman announced that each entity has different needs to accomplish with restraints of funding. Where is there room for negotiations? He appreciated MnDOT’s willingness to hear the City’s concerns and to go back and try to negotiate options.
Bertram stated that the City is willing to give some thing’s up. Ultimately we both want the best package. On a scale of 1 – 10 how significant is mediation? Weidmann responded that MnDOT will present the plan with Municipal Consent, if denied; there is an option to come back for the following:
1. Room for give and take to close the gap; however, when MnDOT asks for Municipal Consent they have given as much as they will give.
2. Appeal process is at the sole discretion of the District Engineer.
3. Withdraw the project.
MnDOT has a minority vote when is comes to ATP 8 funding and MnDOT is looking for help to sell the project.
Bertram commented that mediation is the last resort.
Weidmann firmly stated that traffic signals on the by-pass are NOT negotiable.
Fischbach asked why traffic signals were nonnegotiable? Weidmann stated that Hwy. 23 is an interregional corridor and at 55mph it should take a one hour trip one hour, to protect the taxpayer, and maintain the mobility of the corridor.
Bertram stated that if the City is in agreement with no traffic signals and are willing to give them up can we compromise on another issue? Weidmann stated that these conversations are helpful to get to an end project. At this point MnDOT is not able to get an additional access at Cemetery Road. If it is the City’s number one priority, MnDOT is willing to explore options and try to narrow the gap.
Bertram asked how long it would take to get these questions and concerns answered? Weidmann stated that he had a clear understanding of the City’s concerns. Voss stated that these questions and concerns could be answered in December. Weidmann added that these would be answered before Christmas.
Thompson commented on Mr. Flaten’s timeline mentioned at a previous meeting. Weidmann suggested that the first Council meeting in December (December 14, 2005) MnDOT would present the Municipal Consent and bring an engineer for final word on proposed options.
Bertram suggested that one more meeting would be nice before the December 14th to clear up the maybes with MnDOT. Weidmann suggested that on December 14th MnDOT would respond to the City’s concerns and comments and on the 28th Area District Engineer (ADE) and Mr. Flaten would present the Municipal Consent.
Thompson questioned the number of days between the Municipal Consent and the public hearing? Flaten stated that he would mail the Municipal Consent. There is 15 days to set the public hearing, which must be advertised for 30 days prior to the hearing.
Lindquist explained the Council’s fourth concern – the Roseville Road intersection and approach to business Hwy. 23 to allow traffic from the west to east to easily ramp off onto an exit. Hwy. 23 serves lake residents and golf course traffic and want to continue traffic straight on Hwy. 23. Weidmann suggested a turn movement option; Flaten and Weidmann will look into it.
Bertram commented on the following:
· What the City is willing to give up.
· Scenarios of give and take.
· Talking with individual property owners.
Weidmann explained the following:
· Roseville Road – free right
· Airport intersection – safety, access spacing guidelines, and engineering safety criteria.
Thompson explained that at the airport intersection is prime for commercial and retail growth.
Weidmann stated that this spacing issue’s biggest obstacle is the airport zoning regulations.
Bertram noted changing the classification to achieve a ½ mile spacing regulation. Weidmann responded that all by-passes are A Rural Classification and have one mile separation for accesses.
Thompson asked if the geographic boundary of the river plays a part in spacing? Flaten stated that Hwy. 55 has the river crossing.
Hosch stated that these guidelines that are quoted are “ideal”; however, we don’t live in an ideal world. Voss stated that the guidelines are set for safety reasons. Hosch asked, one mile vs. ¾ miles, what’s the difference? Weidmann said safety.
Weidmann stated that cost is not an issue for Cemetery Road, but a bridge over the road; this is a safety concern.
Fischbach commented that there are other places in the state that have close intersections. Voss said yes, there are, but MnDOT does not want to continue to make the same mistake.
Weidmann stated that one mile is the standard and the District can not violate the standards, MnDOT can get an exemption, but someone would have to sign off on it.
Fischbach asked if no signal lights were a standard? Has the decision been made, which is more important, and that the project will not be done is signal lights are insisted upon? Flaten explained access management and that no signal lights will be allowed on the by-pass.
Fischbach stated that this is the edge of town. Voss responded that this is still a by-pass with a new alignment.
Zimmerman asked if there is an opportunity to adjust the speeds to allow for closer accesses? Voss said, unlikely as speeds are set according to a traffic study.
Bertram suggested a longer section of slower speed. Voss stated it would still be unlikely.
Thompson appreciated MnDOT’s willingness to help as we all have to live with the decisions for a number of years. What would MnDOT ask for or look at if you were the City? Weidmann stated that it is hard for us to do so. This project has been a major investment through out the district. He understands the City’s concerns, but may not be able to achieve them all.
Bertram announced that if MnDOT would present the Municipal Consent today it would not get one vote in favor. MnDOT needs to show a good faith effort towards these concerns that have been addressed. MnDOT needs to take a long look at these concerns if they want the City’s support at ATP.
Voss confirmed the four major concerns the City wants MnDOT to address:
1. Exit and Entrance at airport on Cemetery Rd.
2. Business Hwy. 23
3. Upgrading Lake Ave.
4. Roseville Road – free right
Thompson also mentioned that as the process continues the City wants to be brought into the discussions to keep an open dialog. The City does not want to slow down the process, but wants to do it right.
Mr. Yarmon commented on the dislike of the words “by pass” and the route has moved since the original announcement. How is the classification designation determined? Weidmann explained the designation.
Lindquist commented that the actual route is still unknown and could still move. The Council has not actually seen a map of the center line to determine where the route is.