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|Paynesville Press - November 16, 2005|
Council discusses Highway 23, sets meeting with MnDOT
In an hour-long discussion at their meeting last week, the Paynesville City Council agreed that changes need to be made to the Highway 23 plan proposed by MnDOT, even if exactly what the council members want to demand was not clear.|
The Paynesville City Council discussed Highway 23, the recent informational meeting about it, and MnDOT current proposal for an hour at their regular meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The council set a special meeting for Monday, Nov. 21, to meet with MnDOT project manager Lowell Flaten and other MnDOT staff. This special meeting, a working meeting, not a public hearing, will start at 6 p.m.
Council member Jeff Bertram was the most vocal during the discussion. He said that he wants to get the project done, too, after all the delays but that it's worth an extra month or two to get it done right.
He also said the project is needed: "No doubt about it, we need the bypass."
The council needs to be united in negotiating with MnDOT, urged Bertram. Having spent ten years in the legislature, he said MnDOT's first response is usually "no." "They tell you they can't do it, but they can," he explained.
MnDOT did listen in the route selection, noted Bertram, who still feels the west alternative is best. Without the city's urging to pick the west, MnDOT would have chosen the east, speculated Bertram. Mayor Jeff Thompson thought MnDOT would have chosen the far west.
The city needs to negotiate with MnDOT now, agree on a plan for the west route, and have MnDOT submit that for municipal consent, advised Bertram. "It's not going to get any better," he warned.
City engineer Scott Hedlund estimated that the engineering plans that would be submitted for municipal consent would only be around 30 percent finished, or still in the preliminary stages. The centerline of the corridor would be defined, but some details may need to be figured or revised later.
As a matter of law, said city attorney Bill Spooner, the city only gives consent on corridor.
Bertram said the best way for the city to negotiate would be to tweak the design during municipal consent behind a united council. Neither the city nor MnDOT want the project to stall or to go to the appeals process, he said.
The city could use political pressure on MnDOT, too, he suggested. "If we need to, we'll have to get Dean Johnson, Al Juhnke, Larry Hosch, and Michelle Fischbach involved," said Bertram.
"It's in their best interest to work it out," he added.
Stan Yarmon, who represents a business group concerned about the Highway 23 plans, said a united council was needed to negotiate with MnDOT. "Our job as business people is to persuade you people to our position. Then you can persuade him," he said.
Bertram said he wanted the existing highway to become Business 23, for the speeds of the in-town portion to be slowed, for at-grade intersections, and for a stoplight at the Lake Avenue intersection, if possible. At-grade intersections are more important, he said, because eventually they will merit stoplights. "Even if they don't put one there now, they will put one there eventually," he said.
Thompson said the half interchange on the west end of town was not acceptable. During the Draft EIS process, the task force focused on the number of accesses to Paynesville, not the design.
City administrator had called and asked MnDOT about an at-grade intersection at Cemetery Road that morning and gotten a negative response, with MnDOT quoting access management guidelines. Could the access on the west end be further away? By golf course? Helget wondered.
Council member Jean Soine agreed that the entrances and exits need more work; that they are not favorable to downtown or other business districts. She also said she was willing to slow traffic in town but did not like stoplights.
Council member Tom Lindquist wondered if MnDOT refrained from being specific and kept things nebulous until this late stage: "No one really knows what's going on."
He said the current plan provided inadequate access from Business 23 to the new highway going west, where the current road is designed to become a cul de sac rather than rejoining Highway 23. To go west and get on the new highway, drivers would need to turn and use the intersection at Roseville Road.
Council member Dennis Zimmerman was attending his daughter's wedding and was absent.
The council members discussed holding another council meeting before their meeting with MnDOT representatives on Monday, Nov. 221, but never set such a meeting.
Helget said that Flaten told him that MnDOT could still submit a plan for municipal consent by December The city would have 90 days to act on the plan with no action considered as approval, Helget was told.
The council also discussed Lake Avenue, which was recently annexed to the city along with the bridge over the Crow River. When the new highway is built, this should become the main connection to downtown and the Industrial Park, they agreed. A developer has plans to develop 200 acres on the north side of the city between the river and the new highway and the junction at Lake Avenue. This may include redesigning Lake Avenue and possibly extending Washburne Avenue from downtown.
Lake Avenue will need to be upgraded as it only is a five-ton road at present, not suitable for truck traffic, said Helget. Bertram said MnDOT is obligated to provide funding when they push traffic onto a local road, and the city is researching this issue.
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