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County board split on supporting roundabout

The Hubbard County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at Tuesday's meeting expressing the county's support for a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 71 and County Road 15, south of Park Rapids.

Public Works Coordinator David Olsonawski explained to commissioners in the weeks prior to Tuesday's meeting city officials, as well as county staff, met with Minnesota Department of Transportation, for the second time, to discuss the tentative plan for the project.

"They indicated to us after their surveys that the best solution at that intersection is a roundabout," Olsonawski said. "They are asking the city and the county for their support in moving forward with this project. After listening to them I do think this is probably the best solution for that intersection and I think it'll work really well."

Roundabouts are a design technique intended to provide an alternative to traffic signals and are usually built with a circular raised island and splitter medians on all approaches to help slow vehicles and direct traffic into the counterclockwise flow around the center.

A roundabout at the discussed intersection would provide a continuous flow of traffic and slow vehicles upon approaching the intersection on both the major and minor legs.

MnDOT was also asking that the county share cost participation for work that will be done on CSAH 15, east of Highway 71 and CSAH 53 west of Highway 71, which is anticipated to cost $75,000 for each project, totalling $150,000.

According to Olsonawski, MnDOT would be treating it as a lump sum payment, as they would for the installation of signal lights. Monies to pay for the two projects would be used from the Municipal State Aid Funds.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen questioned whether there have been a lot of bad accidents at the intersection.

"Yes, they have charted accidents that have taken place there over the years and they've done numerous surveys of the left turns, right turns, passing on the right, everything that goes on there at that intersection," Olsonawski responded, adding that MnDOT has a traffic report of everything that has gone on in the intersection over the past 10 years.

"The traffic coming in from out of town just won't slow down at that intersection. The passing on the right is so severe throughout the summer," he added. "I am amazed that there hasn't been a death there recently."

According to Olsonawski, construction is scheduled to begin late summer 2018.

"Traffic control of some kind is needed at that intersection," Commissioner Ed Smith said. "Evidently, the only thing we'll get MnDOT to participate in is a roundabout. We're not in line for signals or any of these other things."

Olsonawski informed the board that the project will likely move forward with or without the county's support.

"They are looking for your support because it is something that they're moving ahead with," he informed the commissioners. "Our two legs will be improved to match up with the roundabout, it's our participation and it's the right thing to do."

A few of the commissioners expressed concern about the roundabout being constructed within a truck route and whether or not the lanes would be wide enough for a semi-truck to maneuver through it properly.

"I would think MnDOT has that mentality," Olsonawski said, adding that his understanding is that the runup is 25 feet from where the driving lane is.

"What's going to happen with house movers and all the moves that they have going on Highway 71 with huge equipment?" Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes asked.

"They can take the truck route to get around it or if they permit themselves they go through those, and MnDOT comes and takes down signs for them to get through," Olsonawski said. "They'll have windmill fins come through these and they will literally drive right over the roundabout. They are designing them to do that now."

"It's progress, you've got to go with it," Commissioner Charlene Christenson said as part of her motion to adopt the resolution.

The resolution was adopted with Commissioners Christenson, Smith and Stacey in favor and Commissioners Massie and Johannsen opposed.