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|Paynesville Press - May 29, 2002|
MnDOT concerned about highway intersection
How the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) views interregional corridors like Highway 23 became a little clearer last week.|
The city of Paynesville is planning to construct a new exit from the neighborhood on the southeast side of town (in the area of South Street, Sunrise Avenue, and Morningside Avenue) by extending South Street and connecting it to Highway 23 just east of the Paynesville Greenhouse.
City engineer Pete Carlson sent the preliminary plat to MnDOT last winter and got unofficial approval for the new access to Highway 23. Now that the project has been bid and is almost ready for construction to start, though, MnDOT had some concerns before issuing its official approval.
"I was thrown a big, looping curveball by MnDOT that I had not anticipated," Carlson told the council on Wednesday, May 22.
Since Highway 23 is an interregional corridor, MnDOT wants to limit accesses. Or at least combine them into major intersections.
In this case, the board that has to approve the new access in Paynesville was concerned that the new access could get a lot of traffic, especially if other land to the south and east of Paynesville were developed, according to Carlson.
Carlson told the council that he told MnDOT that their growth expectations were too rapid (using areas around the Twin Cities as invalid comparisons) and that these areas could take 20 years to develop. But Carlson conceded that MnDOT's concern did have merit, especially in the long-term picture.
One thing that would satisfy MnDOT in the future would be to line up the new access with a road across the highway. One suggested solution would be to run a new road straight across the highway to the north, through the currently vacant building next to Koronis Tire, and close the intersections on both ends of Ampe Drive and make Ampe Drive into a cul de sac on both ends.
"If you were starting from scratch, this would be a very viable concept," said Carlson.
The problem, of course, is that the city is not starting from scratch.
While the city did not commit to any specific solution, the city council did promise MnDOT that if traffic counts and turning movements indicated a safety concern in the future that the city would participate in a safety study of the area.
The city already has expressed some of its own concerns about that intersection, especially since vehicles making a left turn coming into town could block traffic on Highway 23. The city had already contacted MnDOT about lowering the speed limit on Highway 23 on the east side of town.
The city, though, needs to construct another exit for South Street before the 2004 street project, and Carlson said the letter it sent to MnDOT would essentially buy it some time.
If Highway 23 bypasses the city, the issue of changing the intersections on the east end of town might never eventuate.
Council member Dave Peschong said MnDOT's safety concern on this issue showed the need for Highway 23 to bypass Paynesville.
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