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Paynesville Press - September 6, 2006

City, township question
Cemetery Road changes

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville City Council and the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors approved a joint letter to MnDOT last month, expressing "extreme concern" over a proposed change to the planned Highway 23 improvement project in Paynesville and asking for a joint meeting with city, township, and MnDOT officials.

The city and township concerns center on Cemetery Road, which was planned to be realigned with the highway improvement project. Instead of reaching the city by the municipal liquor store, under the improvement plans Cemetery Road would come to town a block south (across from the north entrance to the high school parking lot).

While the latest MnDOT plan given to the city still includes the off and on ramps connecting to Cemetery Road to the new highway, the realigned Cemetery Road would end at the driveway to the airport. Then traffic would need to turn right onto this driveway and stop at the curve on the existing Cemetery Road before taking a left to head out of town to the west.

"This proposal brings up major safety concerns and traffic hazards, as I will point out," wrote Paynesville Police Chief Kent Kortlever in a separate letter to MnDOT. "This proposal will create two unneccessary turns for persons traveling either east or west on Cemetery Road, where the 'current' proposal has no turns involved."

"For persons driving large vehicles, such as semi-tractor trailers, they will not be able to make the turn off from the existing Airport Driveway onto the existing Cemetery Road and head westbound. The existing Cemetery Road is a narrow, winding road and involves curves at the current point where Airport Driveway and Cemetery Road connect. This factor has always been a concern for motorists because of the narrow road and multiple curves."

In MnDOT's previous plans, the Cemetery Road realignment continued further to the west, reducing the curves on this road. With the Paynesville Cemetery on this road, with a new development using this as a way to town, and with this road possibly becoming a route for local traffic to reach town once the new highway is built, officials have asked to meet with MnDOT before the highway plans are officially submitted to the city for municipal consent.

"With the amount of traffic that flows down this road, it would only make sense to make it a safe road to travel instead of one that has the inconvenience of two turns and obstructed vision of a farm home at the north intersection," wrote Kortlever to MnDOT.

Mayor Jeff Thompson, in a letter to MnDOT last month after city officials first glimpsed the new highway plans, also noted that airport driveway is not a platted street or road. It is a driveway to the airport, he noted in a letter accompanied with pictures of the intersection on the curve of Cemetery Road that local officials view as dangerous.

MnDOT officials originally said last fall that they would be officially submitting the highway improvement plans to the city in the winter, but this has been delayed, though MnDOT's submission of plans apparantly is close. City and township officials would like to sort out the revised Cemetery Road proposal before MnDOT officially submits its highway improvement plans.

Once the official plans are submitted, the city will need to hold a public hearing as part of the municipal consent process. Then the city council will need to decide whether to approve or deny the improvement plans, with MnDOT able to appeal if the city denies the plans or to agree to proposed changes by the city.

The questions about Cemetery Road have already delayed the second section of trail planned for this fall. The trail section from the city to the Glacial Lakes State Trail - which was to be built this fall - is supposed to follow Cemetery Road. Without knowing the future route of Cemetery Road, the trail route is uncertain, too. (The trail section from the city to the city beach should still be built this fall.)

In its joint letter, the city and township also raised a change to Co. Rd. 130. With a possible loss of a railroad crossing, city officials are concerned about future access to some lands in this area that might eventually be annexed to the city.

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