CSAH 13: Project aims to improve safety on crash-ridden highway
Lake Edward Township residents gathered Tuesday, Oct. 24, at town hall to learn about a $1.8 million reconstruction plan for County State Aid Highway 13.
Steve Stroschein, senior engineer with the Crow Wing County Highway Department, explained the plans to reconstruct 3.2 miles of CSAH 13, from County Road 137 to County State Aid Highway 4, in 2020. Plans include adding 6 feet of paved shoulders to each side, rebuilding ditches to meet safety standards and widening the right of way from 66 feet to 100 feet.
The 33-foot clear zone from the centerline will increase to 50 feet, meaning trees and other objects in that zone will have to be removed.
"We're completely redesigning it," Stroschein said. "If you were going to build a house today, you wouldn't use the same standards you built with in 1950. There's a lot of safety codes you have to build that house to today. And those are based on proven safety standards. And that's very similar to how we build roads today. There's a lot of safety standards that have been proven effective over the years, and that's how we build the roads."
One reason reconstruction is needed on CSAH 13, Stroschein said, is because of its substantial crash history. There have been 82 crashes on the highway since 1998, 37 percent of which resulted in bodily injury or death. These numbers are more than double the Minnesota state average for county roads.
One strategy the Minnesota Department of Transportation suggests for reducing crashes is widening the right of way. Though drivers might feel like they can go faster on wider roads, Stroschein said the speed limit is not set to increase and crash rates have decreased on similar roads after reconstruction due to better visibility.
Adding ditches to the highway will help to keep it in better condition because the lack of ditches right now means that water runs onto the road and deteriorates it.
"We realize when we do a roadway like this, and it's you living on the road, it almost becomes personal ... because it impacts your yard," Assistant County Engineer Rob Hall said of the project. "We also have a responsibility ... to all the people using it who don't live on it."
When the audience - composed of about 35 residents - got a chance to ask questions, one of the first topics was whether power lines will be buried underground after the reconstruction, as power outages are a concern.
"There seem to be some compelling arguments for putting that power underground," CSAH 13 resident Philip Vaughan said. "I can see for safety that people not hitting poles above ground would be one thing, but I think here there may be people (for whom) power isn't just a convenience, it's critical to whether they might have some medical devices."
That's true for Mimi Thurlow, who has stage 4 kidney disease and depends on a sleep machine and an oxygen machine.
"The need for electricity to the house is very important," Thurlow said, adding that many other residents in the area have similar needs.
When Vaughan suggested audience members who wanted to see underground power lines raise their hands, the majority of the room did so.
He then asked Stroschein and Hall if they could help relay that message to the power companies. Stroschein said he could.
The county was awarded a $1.3 million federal grant for the project and will have to pay roughly $440,000 itself.
The county plans to reconstruct the rest of CSAH 13, out to Highway 371, in 2021. When asked why that section isn't being reconstructed first, Hall said it's because the project was too big to submit for federal funding, so the county split it up into two.
Both sections of the road received funding, but Rosemary Franzen - District 4 county commissioner - said the portion of highway from CR 137 to CSAH 4 "just happens to be" selected for a year earlier than the other section.
Crow Wing County Engineer Coordinator Mark Melby estimated construction to start in April or May of 2020 and wrap up before the end of September.
Trees will likely be taken down in the fall of 2019, but before that property owners will be assessed for any losses.
Hall said the county will either do a market value analysis or hire an appraiser who will come up with a value for trees, fencing and any other financial losses property owners will experience. Melby will assess all the appraisals to make sure they include all losses. The county will then send the offers out in letters to residents, who can then schedule meetings with county representatives to discuss any changes they desire. The county will pay for a new appraiser at the request of a property owner.
The county will likely send letters out in the spring or summer of 2019.
Residents can learn more about the reconstruction project at another meeting that will likely happen in April or May. Anyone who has questions can call the Crow Wing County Highway Department at 218-824-1110 and ask for Steve Stroschein.