The cost of the planned roundabout at the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Highway 246 has increased by approximately $1.4 million.

The Northfield City Council on Jan. 21 approved plans and specifications, and ordered the advertisement of bids for the project, now estimated at $4.7 million project.

The council in September unanimously decided to have four grade-separated underpasses below the planned Highway 246/Jefferson Parkway roundabout. At that time, the project was estimated to cost $3.32 million.

Northfield City Engineer David Bennett said the cost increase is due to poor soils found on-site and the intersection having to be raised to prevent flooding. Of the project cost, the city has received $900,000 through a state local road improvement grant and more than $483,000 from a state grant. Funding also includes $1.26 million in state aid, $190,000 from the water fund, $420,000 from the stormwater fund and approximately $1.5 million in bonding.

The project is expected to result in a $20 tax increase for a $200,000 home. The increase from the original projection will not cause a further tax increase.

The project is slated for construction from May to October. The planned project detour is from Highway 1 to the northbound lane of Highway 246 to Maple Street.

Councilor Erica Zweifel noted that the project has been years in the making. In 2016, an intersection control evaluation report identified the need to alleviate peak-hour congestion, improve pedestrian and bicycle access, improve the entrance and exit from nearby schools, improve safety for all users and install a single-lane roundabout in the area.

In being the lone no vote, Councilor David DeLong said construction would cause a mess and result in a lot of people using Raider Drive near the three area schools: Bridgewater Elementary, and Northfield Middle and High schools.

“This is just a little much,” he said of the cost.

“I don’t think we needed to pay this much.”

To Bennett, however, the project is worth the cost because it will increase pedestrian safety and reduce vehicle speed at and near school zones. He also anticipates crashes will be less severe in the roundabout because they eliminate the likelihood of side impact crashes, considered the most deadly.

David Bennett

Bennett

Councilor Suzie Nakasian supported the project, adding that it was made necessary by the decisions to place schools away from developed land.

To Mayor Rhonda Pownell, although the project is expensive, it is necessary.

“There are good changes that are going to be made here,” she said.

Rhonda Pownell mug

Pownell

In also expressing support for the project, Councilor Brad Ness noted one of the most serious crashes in the city’s history happened at the intersection, calling the roundabout “a long time in the making.” He noted there has never been a fatal crash at a roundabout in the state.

Plans and specifications approved for mill and overlay project

After significant discussion on project plans, councilors approved plans and specifications, and ordered the advertisement of bids for the road repair project slated for this summer.

Project plans call for work on:

First Street from College to Maple Street, including bumpouts at Winona Street and Nevada Street and on the east and west sides of First Street.

Second Street from Washington to Oak Street, including a road marking in the form of two inverted V-shapes above a bicycle.

Third Street from Washington to Oak Street.

Fourth Street from Nevada to Prairie Street, including a bike cycle track.

Union Street from First to Second Street.

College Street from First to Third Street, including a bike cycle track.

Winona Street from First to Fourth Street.

Nevada Street from First to Fourth Street, including on-street bike lanes.

Maple Street from First to Fourth Street.

Elm Street from Second to Fifth Street.

Oak Street from Second to Fourth Street.

Heritage Drive from Hwy. 3 to Hidden Valley Apartments, including a bike cycle track.

Jefferson Road from Hidden Valley Road to Heritage Drive, including a bike lane and shared parking/bike lane.

Seventh Street from Water Street to the west dead end, and including bumpouts on the east and west side of Water Street.

Eighth Street from Water to Linden Street, including on-street bike lanes.

DeLong unsuccessfully tried to amend the motion to strike the planned bumpout on Seventh Street. He noted staff had not recommended the addition, adding if people are not stopping in the spot it is a traffic control issue, not a safety problem. Ness agreed, but Zweifel said having the bumpouts was supported by United Church of Christ, and she deemed them “important.”

To Peterson White, installing the bumpout could save money by not requiring enforcement. The amended motion failed with DeLong and Ness voting against it.

In another amendment, the city will plant trees in the project area by a 2-to-1 ratio compared to those destroyed due to the project at a $90,000 cost. Zweifel, who amended the project to include the measure, said it was done to help achieve the city’s climate objectives, adding that replacement of large trees with small new ones is not an equal tradeoff.

DeLong took issue with the ratio, saying it was an example of the council legislating from the dais.

“These are wants,” he said.

“All of these expenses are just that, added expenses.”

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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