While the actual construction is still two years out, the City of Rushford is working diligently to determine the scope of the Highway 30 project. The clock is ticking on the Minnesota Department of Transportation-led (MnDOT) project and design elements to determine geometric layout must be decided now.
Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, presented numerous options at the March 9 council meeting, based on ongoing discussions with the community. However, it’s become clear that some aspects of the project have little room for preference, being largely dominated by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance and MnDOT guidelines and goals.
The project length is just over a half-mile, running west from the intersection of West Jessie Street and Highway 43/Mill Street to the city boundary on Highway 30/Stevens Avenue. Preliminary cost projections are $4.98 million and include improvements to pavement, curb, and sidewalks, as well as underground storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and both watermain and water service replacement. “These are high-level planning estimates at this time,” stated Olinger. “We’re digging in, but that number will get honed in as time goes on.”
Much of the estimated figures are based on the MnDOT cooperative agreement manual. Surface improvements are largely covered by the state. Exceptions include residential outwalks and oversized sidewalk areas beyond MnDOT maximums (100% city) and parking lanes (90% state, 10% city). Underground utility is the sole responsibility of the city, with the exception of storm sewer (95% state, 5% city). The city’s portion of the project is estimated at $2.16 million.
Bolton & Menk and the city have worked with financial consultant Mike Bubany previously and the numbers appear to be right on track. Additional costs will include lighting and landscaping or tree replacement. MnDOT will fund up to 2% of their total contribution for this purpose.
The city will be assessing affected businesses and residential properties for the improvements. While these are very early numbers, with the city policy for assessments, this project seems to be trending the same or lower than previous projects.
The biggest challenge in maintaining city preferences for the project has be ADA compliance. “It’s a piece of the design that really drives the boat as far as what you can do,” added Olinger. At preliminary downtown meetings, narrowing of streets indicated added safety benefits and ease for ADA design. Olinger indicated the current 54’ street width was preferred, but in order to attain compliance, a 48-foot street is required. “It’s the maximum width we can do and still meet the requirements.” In the downtown area, this puts both driving and parking lanes at 12-feet, north sidewalks at a 10-foot width and south sidewalks at a 12-foot width.
Bump-outs, rounded curb extensions into the parking lanes, were also previously discussed for the downtown area at the intersection of West Jessie Street and Elm Street. Community preference was not to include the bump-outs, however, in order to gain appropriate ADA-compliant ramp slopes, the city may not have a choice but to include them. “It doesn’t affect turning movements much at all,” noted Olinger. “The critical piece is how much they come into Highway 30.” The bump-outs doesn’t appear to impact existing parking spaces on Elm Street either. “I think there’s a good chance I can make it work, but I won’t know until later,” added Olinger.
Another issue of contention is the possible extension of sidewalks in residential areas. Currently, sidewalks on the north side are met with old retaining walls and steep slopes. North sidewalks end at 501 Stevens Avenue. Just one residence east of the ending, 417 Stevens Avenue, has a cultural/historical designation, so an architectural survey may be required. In order to extend sidewalks on the north, additional retaining walls and grading would be needed. Olinger estimated it could cost between $100,000-200,000 to extend the sidewalk past the last four properties on the north.
On the south side, sidewalks currently end just halfway down the project length, at 404 Stevens Avenue. This side of the road is met with homes closer to the roadway and areas of steep dropoffs in some areas. The estimated cost to extend the south sidewalk, past nine properties, is $30,000-40,000. No parking would be allowed on the south side of the street coming into town from Highway 30 prior to where the sidewalk begins, in order to accommodate the new sidewalk.
In the residential section, the street width is roughly 40 feet wide, with 12-foot driving lanes and eight-foot parking lanes on both sides. “The biggest piece driving the recommended street width here is steep boulevard slopes,” noted Olinger. “The more time I’m spending with preliminary, the more problems I’m seeing.”
Geometric layout for the preliminary design phase of the project wraps up by the end of June. The final design will take a year with bidding commencing in the fall of 2021. Construction is anticipated for May of 2022.
In other news, Olinger presented the status of a flood study update. The goal was to study properties designated as floodplain by new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood mapping. In the Nannestad Lane area, residential properties were impacted heavily by maps. After review, engineers believe several properties identified could be removed from floodplain through a collective hydraulic analysis process. Bolton & Menk has been in contact with property owners regarding an agreement and cost-sharing for the process.
“As the flood boundary gets smaller, properties would not be required to get flood insurance,” said Olinger. Five properties, however, will likely be forced to remain in the floodplain. “We’re run through pretty extensive modeling. The property owners now understand there doesn’t appear to be any option to remove them from floodplain. They’re obviously frustrated, but I don’t know if there’s anything we can do for them unless the city is willing to do substantial drainage mitigation.”
“If we submit the study, there’s no reason to believe FEMA will not make an adjustment. On their own, there’s very little chance,” added Olinger.
The next regularly scheduled council is Monday, March 23, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.