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Thinking ahead about crosswalks

October 30, 2010
Chuck Hunt
With the 2010 construction season winding down, most residents who have been affected by construction projects are hoping they all get completed before another Minnesota winter sets in.

There have been several road and bridge projects underway around Faribault County, and most are nearing an end.

In Blue Earth, there have been a few construction projects happening all at once. The swimming pool bridge, the Fourth Street project, and completion of work on Moore, Eighth and Tenth streets.

Plus, there has been a sewer project on North Main.

Odds are good most of them will reach completion, but there is some doubt on a couple, including the North Main project.

As detailed in last week’s Faribault County Register, there is a snag with getting an easement for a lift station and placement of the sewer main itself.

If the weather holds, all of the work can be accomplished. If, as is usual, winter sets in for good right away in early November, some work won’t be done until next spring.

Which brings up another point.

Two major Blue Earth street projects are going to be coming up in 2013 and beyond. One is reconstruction of two blocks of Main Street in the downtown area. It is on the county’s work schedule.

The other is a state project involving a remake of Highway 169 almost the length of its travel through Blue Earth.

Many residents have heard of this upcoming project, because it includes three roundabouts. Yes, three.

A meeting of a Highway 169/Main Street citizens’ advisory street committee and engineers from Minnesota Department of Transportation on Thursday confirms that the project is still set for 2013, and the three roundabouts are still a part of the plan.

There have been several rumors heard around town, concerning the plan. Some have merit, a few do not.

The Mn/DOT engineers say the round- abouts have plenty of radius room for semi’s and combines to be able to navigate through.

The minimum width in the lane necessary is 16 feet, they say, and the roundabouts in Blue Earth will be 20 feet.

Another rumor deals with sidewalks – or the lack thereof. Some folks believe there will not be sidewalks at the intersections involving the roundabouts.

Not true.

Mn/DOT is planning walk paths on both sides of Highway 169, and crosswalks at all of the intersections, including the ones with round abouts. These will be placed at a safe distance from the actual traffic lane of the roundabout, for safety reasons.

In fact, Mn/DOT says there will be a huge increase in the amount of walking, and biking, pathways than are in place now. The engineers say they create project plans with pedestrians and cyclists in mind.

They are fully aware, also, that there needs to be a safe crossing for children on their way to school.

There is one problem, of course, and that is that there won’t be traffic signals to stop traffic for pedestrian crossing. The answer from the engineers is that traffic slows to 15 miles per hour at the roundabouts, and so vehicles are required to stop if there are pedestrians ready to cross.

The Mn/DOT engineers are so committed to making walkability part of their project plan that they are going to put pressure on the city to complete sidewalks where they are missing.

One area they are targeting is the intersection where the high school and McDonald’s are located.

They say they do not want to put a sidewalk across Highway 169 if it doesn’t continue on.

Currently, it stops right after crossing the highway intersection.

The special Highway 169/Main Street Committee has been concerned about many parts of the two large upcoming projects. Parking, access to businesses, planting trees and shrubs.

And, walkability – sidewalks and pathways.

It was heartening to learn that we were not the only ones thinking this way.

Now we can move on to some other worries.

Like, can these large, disruptive projects be completed on time, and with minimal delay?

Only time – and weather – will determine that answer for sure.

 
 

 

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