Residents filled the Nisswa City Hall council chambers Thursday, Sept. 26, to check out a more detailed design concept for $1.8 million in improvements to the west half of County State Aid Highway 13, a project planned for 2021 and that will mostly be paid with state funding.

A similar meeting was held last October for residents to learn about preliminary plans to reconstruct the 2.7 miles of CSAH 13 from Highway 371 (Sportland Corners) to County Road 137. Work on the east half of that road (3.2 miles from CR 137 to CSAH 4) will occur next summer, along with a project to make the Highway 371-CSAH 13 intersection at Sportland Corners safer.

That intersection project will include adding left turn lanes on CSAH 13 and CSAH 77 (between Holiday and Wendy’s) to help the flow of traffic coming off those roads. The project was scheduled to occur this summer, but it entails replacing the signal lights and the parts won’t arrive in time, said Steve Strohschein, project manager with the Crow Wing County Highway Department.

CSAH 13 improvement details were shown on a map hanging on a wall for residents to look at, and Strohschein shared a PowerPoint presentation with more information.

According to the PowerPoint, CSAH 13 is in poor condition and is currently ranked in the bottom 5% among all Crow Wing County roads. It has a ride quality of 38 based on a scale of 0-100. Pavement is 22 years old and was last overlaid in 1997.

From 1996-2017, 70 crashes occurred on CSAH 13, and nearly 41% of those (29 crashes) resulted in bodily injury or fatality. The road corridor currently averages 3.2 crashes per year, which is well above the average crash rate on two-lane county highways in the state.

“Safety is No. 1 for the traveling public and residents,” Strohschein said of the reconstruction project.

Challenges along the roadway remain the same as those outlined last fall: safety because of horizontal curves and sight distance, rapid pavement deterioration, average traffic of 2,200 cars per day, environment and lakes/wetlands (drainage to Lake Hubert and wetland impacts), drainage/deteriorated culverts, narrow right of way and defining that right of way, proximity of homes and cabins, pedestrian and bicyclist conflicts, utility relocation, cultural resources, historic sites (Lake Hubert train depot, which is listed on the Registry of the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office), public expectation and maintenance.

The project entails a sensitive design concept with the same goals promoted last fall: safety for motorists, residents, bicyclists and pedestrians; correcting design deficiencies; improving pavement quality; maintaining the roadway's character; defining right of way; protecting the environment and lakes; improving water quality; creating a design that discourages high speed traffic; minimizing property impacts; and gaining community acceptance.

CSAH 13 is proposed to be built with 12-foot driving lanes and 6-foot shoulders. The project does include curb and gutter from Camp Lincoln Road to Crabtree Lane, and ditches with no curb in other locations.

“We used both designs to maximize safety and minimize impacts to properties along the road,” Strohschein said.

Benefits of curb and gutter are: It reduces required clear zone area, reduces impacts to property, gives the ability to control road drainage, naturally reduces speeds (traffic calming), results in a 6.5 acre reduction in tree clearing and requires approximately 50% less right of way for construction.

Benefits of no curb include low cost construction, preserves natural drainage patterns, requires no underground storm sewer, and provides great sight distance, natural drainage filter for sediment and other contaminants, and a larger capacity than storm pipes.

The county picked a 45-mph design for the project, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation ultimately sets the speed limit, Strohschein said.

Public comment for this 2021 project is ongoing. The next steps are for the public to view the design concept and provide feedback this fall, and for the county to review those public comments and meet with property owners this fall and winter, buy right of way next spring and finalize the design in summer 2020.

Residents’ questions

When asked if power lines can be buried underground, Strohschein said the county doesn’t have the legal authority to do that, but can let the power company know that’s what the county wants. He believes it’s likely power lines will go underground, especially in the areas with curb and gutter.

Regarding funding, Strohschein said the whole project is funded through state aid and does not include funds from the local property tax levy or county assessments. However, the county’s cost-share policy with municipalities - in this case Nisswa and Lake Edward Township - calls for $60,000 per municipality for curb and gutter. How the city and township decide to pay that is up to them.

Crow Wing County commissioners are currently reviewing this cost-share policy, so it could change.

Also, the Nisswa City Council in August agreed to pay $95,000 to build a detached trail along part of CSAHs 13 and 77. The trail would be detached from the Highway 371 intersection going east on CSAH 13 until after the first curve at Lutheran Church of the Cross, and west on CSAH 77 until the Wendy’s entrance.

Continuing east on CSAH 13, the trail would merge with the shoulder and go along a widened shoulder to the city’s border with Lake Edward Township. The widened shoulder would be included in the county’s 2021 CSAH 13 improvement project.

For more information, contact Strohschein at steve.stroschein@crowwing.us or 218-824-1110.