The City of Rushford is drawing closer to its next big project – the complete reconstruction of Highway 30. The highway is one of three that intersect within the city. The proposed $5.32 million project is being led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT). City Engineer Derek Olinger, of Bolton & Menk, was on hand at the April 26 council meeting and public hearing to clarify the status of the project and the schedule moving forward.
The project design is currently about 60% complete. Final geometry of streets and sidewalks, special assessments, specific limits of property easement needs, and construction staging and related impacts were not discussed at the meeting. Several meetings have covered portions of those discussions including two public meetings in December 2019, downtown focus group meetings in January and February 2020, the rollout of conceptual layout to the council in March 2020, and a feasibility and improvement hearing in October 2020. The council granted MnDOT layout approval in December 2020 and authorization to move forward with acquiring easements last month.
The need for a minor amount of permanent easement was the trigger for the hearing process. Olinger noted there are roughly 30 construction easements that need to be secured beyond the five properties that need permanent easement, including two which are property acquisition. Of the 30 easements that Bolton & Menk are handing, 10 are currently in negotiation. The two acquisition properties will be handled solely by MnDOT.
Olinger also briefly reviewed the project specs. The total length is roughly a half mile, extending from the Highway 43/Mill Street intersection westward to 300 feet past the Southview Court intersection. Projected work includes the street, curb and gutter, sidewalks, and utilities. Street width downtown will be roughly 48 feet wide with 12-foot driving lanes and a 10-foot parking lane, while residential areas (west of Norsland Lefse) will see approximately 40-foot streets with 12-foot driving lanes and eight-foot parking lanes. These were determined by the maximum amount of street MnDOT would approve to make the project Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
All sidewalks within the project area will be replaced for fully accessible service. Several areas will see sidewalk extensions and additions where there are currently none, particularly on the south side of the road on the western portion of the project. “This was established as a very early project goal,” noted Olinger. Sidewalks in the downtown portion will be, at a minimum, ten feet wide on the north side and varying around 12 feet on the south side. Residential areas will be five feet wide. “Four feet is minimum in public right-of-way, but you have to include bump out areas for passing. It’s standard policy to do five feet.”
Other key points from the meeting included removal of 12 trees within the project area and the opportunity to use a MnDOT cooperative tree grant for future replacement, if approved, and potential impacts of retaining walls on properties on the Magelssen Bluff side of the project. The project will aim to have minimal disturbance of existing retaining walls. Where they are disturbed, they will be replaced with a new wall. “There are several historical properties where additional monitoring is needed and it will help with that. We will try to plan where it will impact due to grading needs,” added Olinger.
The project cost will be shared by both the state and city, with special assessments to be included as a source of a portion of the city cost. Total city cost, determined by state policy is estimated at $2.332 million. Pedestrian crossings and street lighting are the responsibility of the city and an agreement for removal of snow will be secured as part of the project. The council approved the geometric layout as presented.
A portion of the meeting was also held in closed session to discuss the potential purchase of the Farmer’s WIN Coop properties downtown. Economic Development Authority members Don Paulson, Derek Colbenson and Carl Schollmeier attended and provided information and recommendations to the council. A summary statement of the closed portion, from City Clerk Kathy Zacher, was later provided.
“Discussion was held on various options including stages of demolition, costs for demolition and unknown environmental issues. Also discussed was the asking price by Farmers WIN, the benefits and potential market prospects if the property is acquired, methods of financing both internally and externally, and the community-wide planning needed for appropriate future use if acquired,” it read.
Following the closed portion, the regular meeting reopened and the council approved allowing City Administrator Tony Chladek to continue negotiations with Farmer’s WIN for the downtown site. To eliminate potential liability for the City, the motion also noted all demolition should be complete and a clean site provided. Chladek will also coordinate with City Attorney Mike Flaherty, of Flaherty/Hood, to determine appropriate contract language for the amount to be offered, the conditions to be specified, and to coordinate the same with the realtor. A response from Farmers WIN is requested 60 days after presentation.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, May 10, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The meeting is open to the public either in-person or online via Zoom.