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Alternate truck route discussed to bypass downtown

Truck traffic poses a safety hazard in the downtown area. A truck route is under consideration that would bypass the downtown area. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 2
The two-mile stretch would extend County Road 28 that runs south from the defunct Candle Factory, south of Highway 34 to the airport, then back east to Highway 71.2 / 2

A committee of city and county officials has begun meeting to continue a long planned and partially begun truck alternate route around Park Rapids to route heavy industrial traffic away from the downtown area.

The initial step was to begin the route off U.S. Highway 71 north near the defunct Candle Factory north of Park Rapids in 2006. That's been completed to Highway 34.

Then County Road 15, from Itasca-Mantrap to Industrial Park Road, was completed, giving truck traffic a southern route around the city.

But that was co8unty engineer Dave Olsonawski's idea independent of the truck route plan, he said.

"The city of Park Rapids only had one crossing and that was the bridge on Highway 34," Olsonawski said.

"So I suggested we try to get federal money to build this road because it dead-ended at the river," he said. "15 never existed. I had to move some miles around. The city and I traded some roads. We built the bridge there.

"Half of it's in city limits. And the south half is in the township so we went ahead. That was basically the start of the storm sewer," he added,

Eventual plans call for a 2-mile stretch down the western edge of the city, to be paved due south of Highway 34. The bypass would end at the southern edge of the Park Rapids Municipal Airport, Olsonawski said, then head back east to Highway 71.

Funding will be crucial in determining the route's future, Olsonawski said.

"I haven't run any numbers on it," he said of the potential cost.

"Right now it's costing us roughly $450,000 a mile at today's costs but we're taking maybe four, five, six years out. Even if you use half a million in costs of grading base and bit (bituminous paving), $2 million is not a bad number to use."

David Collins is a committee member looking at extending the route. He said safety is one of the committee's aims. The downtown area is simply not designed for truck traffic, he said.

"The McDonald's corner is really bad," Collins said. "It's not made for truck turns.

"The route right now is on the line between two townships so they would have to vacate the roads, the county would take it over and there's funding formulas so we were trying to see if the politics and timing were right and if everyone would be on board to start putting that one in the chute," Collins said.

So we're trying to get the townships (Todd and Straight River) and RDO and the city and the county and the airport and test the waters to see if there's any opposition to get the process started."

"There's not much to report until we can find out if we can get some money and then start the discussions and get the township on board," Olsonawski said.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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