Representatives from District 2 of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) met with the Crookston City Council during the Ways & Means Committee meeting Monday night to discuss a possible reconstruction project for downtown Crookston. MnDOT District 2 Planner Jon Mason and District 2 Project Manager Matt Upgren told the committee that the state was making funds available because the sidewalks downtown fail to meet compliance standards with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

MnDOT District 2 Project Manager Matt Upgren (front) and District 2 Planner Jon Mason discuss sidewalk reconstruction

According to MnDOT a recent evaluation indicated non-compliance along Highway 2 in Crookston as a result of pedestrian ramps, accessible pedestrian signals, trip hazards, and cross slopes. The roadway was last reconstructed in the late 1990s and MnDOT currently doesn’t have plans to reconstruct the roads in it’s 10-year Capital Highway Investment Plan, which is why special funding to bring the sidewalks to ADA Compliance is being made available for a project in 2024 said Upgren. “It’s more of a unique project and a unique set of funds,” said Upgren. “We’d normally do this with a pavement project. It’s just easier to achieve it all but because of the condition of Crookston’s sidewalks, MnDOT has made an amount of money available to Crookston in 2024 for a sidewalk project. What we need to look at is capturing all of the issues in town. The main issue is probably sidewalk cross slope (from the building to the curb) but there are also pedestrian safety and speed issues.”

The council members said they’d like to see if the sidewalks on the side streets could be fixed as well with both sides agreeing the best way to proceed would be through a corridor study with MnDOT paying the portion for Highway 2 and the City of Crookston paying for the other streets. According to Upgren, a corridor study will look at a number of variables. “It’s going to look at number one, the sidewalks,” said Upgren. “How are we going to fix those and where would the curb lines need to land to fix the sidewalks. It’s going to look at parking widths, parking layouts, lane widths, and how we’re going to layout the blocks throughout town – turn lanes, shoulders, parking lanes, things like that. It would identify at a planning level what we’re looking for in the downtown.”

Making the sidewalks ADA compliant could extend them out into the current parking spaces, making a reduction of traffic possible from three to two lanes. That along with several other issues such as the corner at Robert St and Broadway would be addressed in the study. “Running turning templates, obviously, we have the bad corner as folks come in from the east,” said Upgren. “So, definitely running turning templates at these corners. If we look at going from three lanes down to two, how does that proposed alternative work with freight and relate to the large trucks? We’ve looked at some of the Average Daily Traffic (ADT) numbers for traffic volumes and we don’t see those being an issue for two lanes. It will look at those items to make sure we’re staying under the thresholds we want to be at.”

The committee approved moving forward with drawing up an agreement to complete a corridor study to see whether a sidewalk upgrade is feasible.  The committee also discussed that not doing a project to ADA standards isn’t likely to be acceptable, so the result of turning down the MnDOT project could result in the current sidewalks and pavers remaining until the next major street reconstruction, which is likely 15-25 years away. Councilman Steve Erickson has been a proponent of a sidewalk project but said it’s important to get the downtown community involved in a plan. “Sidewalks definitely need to be upgraded but it comes down to what’s the cost too,” said Erickson. “I brought up we’re probably going to have to bond for this thing because it’s probably going to be a significant number when it does come back. It’s going to be seven digits probably. Sidewalks are an issue, and they have to be fixed, but we have to look at what it’s going to cost too.”

The committee expressed little desire in including a bike lane in the plan and Councilman Bobby Baird questioned whether there’d be a need to limit truck traffic in downtown to local deliveries only if lanes were possibly reduced. Councilman Jake Fee said there isn’t an easy fix for Crookston’s sidewalks. “Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as taking out the pavers and put concrete in,” said Fee. “We are looking at doing a study that will come in and say how does this look an   d look at other traffic calming measures do we have to do for that. About a year or year and a half ago, Councilman Erickson and I did walk with MnDOT and an ADA expert they had. He was explaining that to get to ADA compliant, you can only have a two percent slope. We knew there would be issues where we have to go out into the street. How do you do that, do you take away parking, do you reduce lanes? We’re still not sure. The first step to replace our sidewalks downtown, which everybody probably agrees needs to be done, is to do this study to figure out how it looks for the community.”

Fee said he was unsure of his feelings if the study were to show a need to reduce the lanes from three to two, especially with semi traffic. While the project will hinge on the council’s decision after receiving the results of the study, Upgren said an agreement to commission the study by the end of the year will secure the funding for a project from the state office. “The end of the year is kind of drop-dead date where we want to know for sure,” said Upgren. “I think we’re going to proceed for now that we’re going to do a project unless we hear otherwise. At least set these wheels in motion to plan for a project for 2024 unless the lane configuration would stop it.”

A handout provided by MnDOT at the meeting is below – 

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