Delano reaches last major decision-making moment in pre-Highway 12 construction

January 21, 2008

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

Three months and counting.

That’s the amount of time the City of Delano has before it becomes consumed with Highway 12 construction, detours, and most likely some headaches, but in the end, it should result in a more efficient corridor through town.

Construction is slated to begin Tuesday, April 1, and will include the reconstruction of the highway through the city, as well as the replacement of the bridge crossing the Crow River. This phase of construction is set to be completed in November 2008.

A second phase, set for 2009, will redo the railroad bridge that spans across Highway 12, as well as widen the corridor through town as it heads northwest toward Montrose.

City Administrator Phil Kern updated members of the Delano City Council Tuesday night, noting that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is currently soliciting bids for the project, with bid opening set for Friday, Jan. 25. Contracts are expected to be signed in early March.

Kern said when looking at the project, it’s important to look at it as “more than the road,” and said there are a number of utilities and things of that nature also involved with the project.

At the meeting Tuesday, Kern said it was the last major decision-making moment in the pre-construction process, as the council approved cooperative agreements with MnDOT, and, reluctantly, Wright County.

Reviewing the detour route through Delano

Not far behind most road construction projects come detour routes – Delano is no different.

The council reviewed final confirmation of the detour route from MnDOT at its meeting. The detour is set to be in place Tuesday, April 15 through Saturday, Nov. 15

The detour route, which was established by MnDOT, has remained unchanged since 2006, when the city granted its municipal consent of the reconstruction project, Kern said in a memo to the council.

Under state law, MnDOT can establish detour routes for its projects without municipal approval, but Kern said MnDOT has worked with the city to come up with the most effective way of detouring traffic from April through November during the project.

The planned detour will utilize four county roads that surround Delano to the east and north. Westbound traffic coming toward Delano from Independence will be detoured at the stoplight near Delano Crossings, north on County Line Road.

At the four-way stop on Wright County Road 30, traffic will be detoured west to Wright County Road 17 (River Street) south.

When travelers reach downtown Delano, they will head west again on Bridge Avenue, crossing the bridge over the Crow River, and back to Highway 12 at the stoplight near the Delano American Legion.

On the detour route, several areas of concern have been pointed out. One such area is on Wright County Road 30 near the school entrance at Tiger Drive. Kern said the contract for construction requires the contractor to hire traffic control at Tiger Drive during construction hours.

Most likely, this will involve a uniformed sheriff’s deputy at the intersection, directing traffic in the morning and afternoon.

Concerns have also been brought forward about the intersection of Elm Avenue and Country Lane off of County Line Road.

Both of these residential roads intersect with County Line Road, but there are no turn lanes or shoulders to accommodate turning vehicles. Kern said both roads could be used as shortcuts to the detour route by travelers looking for a quicker, more direct route through the city.

Because of these concerns, the city had previously included a closure of both intersections in the plans for the detour route.

Detouring the detour

Anyone traveling on County Line Road in Delano knows the railroad crossing could use some attention.

At the meeting Tuesday, Kern said that MnDOT also has a concern about the crossing, and how it will withstand the increased number of vehicles passing over it when the detour is in place for seven months.

Kern said the railroad has scheduled improvements on the crossing in the summer of 2008, and has been unreceptive of the idea of bumping the project up so it wouldn’t affect the detour route.

To improve the railroad crossing means shutting down the road for three to five days while repairs are made, resulting in a “detour the detour route,” Kern said.

Originally, MnDOT proposed using Ninth Street to Elm Avenue for this time period, however city staff had concerns about this plan. Now, MnDOT has a plan in place for a temporary detour using Hennepin County Roads 11 and 92 in Independence.

MnDOT’s project engineer, Terry Humbolt told Kern this is the likely alternate detour route for when it comes time to fix the railroad crossing.

Cooperative agreement between state and city approved for the project

As a part of its cooperative agreement with MnDOT for the project, the council also took a look at what the city will be responsible for throughout the project.

In a memo to the council, Kern explained the city uses Highway 12 right of way and areas beneath the highway for its public utilities. Because of this, as the state rebuilds the roadway, the city is using this opportunity to reconstruct sewer and water infrastructure, as well.

MnDOT has agreed to lump all of the costs under its roadway contract, but has broken out the costs relative to the city’s improvements.

The city also requested that MnDOT include the construction of Ninth Street South in the project, along with a new stoplight at the intersection of Highway 12 and Ninth Street.

Estimated costs of the project for specific things include:

• Streets/lighting/etc. $133,805

• Ninth Street $696,320

• Delano Municipal Utilities watermain improvements $1,162,646

• Sewer improvements $420,005

• Right of way costs (land) $200,000

The agreement between the city and state says the total of these costs ($2,612,766) will be due to MnDOT.

State’s funding policies require that a majority of the funding ($2,412,776) be paid by the city in advance of the project.

Out of the above-mentioned projects, the city pays for different portions in different ways.

From its capital improvement budget, the city will pay for lighting and land costs, totaling $333,805. Finance director Brian Bloch explained at the meeting that the city has a balance of $1.4 million in its capital improvement fund.

He said the city budgeted higher because of anticipated costs for the west side lift station that MnDOT is building with the project. MnDOT is assuming 100 percent of the construction costs, and will turn over operations and general maintenance upon completion.

Bloch said other costs are likely to come up that will also come out of the capital improvement fund, including floodplain grading and improvements, signage and landscaping, construction change orders, “soft costs” and communication issues.

Funding for the extension of Ninth Street South ($696,320) will be done with municipal state aid funding, which means the city will pay for it up front with a bond, and be paid back in time from the state.

Funding for the sewer improvements, estimated at $420,005, will come out of the sewer fund.

Delano Municipal Utilities (DMU) will be responsible for its watermain improvements in the amount of $1,162,646.

The council passed a resolution of intent to bond, which means the authority is there should the city decide to bond for any part of the project.

At the meeting Tuesday, the council decided to go ahead and bond for the Ninth Street South portion of it.

Cooperative agreement between state, county, and city approved, but will be appealed

A smaller cooperative agreement between MnDOT, Wright County, and the City of Delano was the hot topic Tuesday night.

MnDOT sent the agreement to Wright County, requesting 100 percent of county road improvement costs.

Wright County rejected the agreement because it has a policy stating that 50 percent of the county’s share on stoplights within city limits must by paid by the city, affecting the stoplight on Highway 12 at Wright County Road 30.

The cost for the light totals about $252,000, with $84,000 of that being the requested share from Wright County.

Because of the county’s policy, that amount is set to be split in two, with each entity paying $42,000. The county has rejected the city’s appeal of having to pay half of the county’s share, citing a precedence that has been set in Buffalo and St. Michael with other construction projects.

The city received correspondence from MnDOT requesting approval of the agreement by Jan. 16, or else the stoplight could have been removed from the construction plans.

Kern said he feels Wright County is in the minority when it comes to only paying 50 percent of its share, citing a study of the issue that was conducted.

Mayor Joe McDonald expressed frustration with the county policy.

“They should pay for their portion of the county road – it’s the right thing to do,” McDonald said, urging residents of Delano more than once to contact local commissioner Jack Russek and other members of the Wright County Board of Commissioners about the issue.

Council Member Larry Bartels asked that if the road was located in a township, would the township be required to pay the 50 percent. Kern said he wasn’t sure.

The consensus of the council was that, in the interest of public safety and traffic flow, there needs to be a stoplight at the intersection.

The council felt it’s not fair for the city to bear the burden of 50 percent of the county’s share, noting many people just pass through Delano en route to somewhere else in Wright County. Bartels went so far as to suggest a toll booth be set up at the intersection, so the citizens of Delano aren’t the only ones who have to pay the county’s share.

“The county board does not seem like it treats cities very well,” Bartels said.

To keep the project moving forward, and to ensure a stoplight at the intersection of Highway 12 and Wright County Road 30, the council agreed to the contract, with the stipulation that a meeting takes place with Russek, and that the city ask the county to pay its full share.

Trail permit also approved for Highway 12

The project design and plans for the Highway 12 reconstruction calls for a 10-foot bituminous trail on the north and east sides of Highway 12.

The council approved a permit allowing the trail to exist within the highway right-of-way. Municipal consent of the trail was given in fall 2006 to include the trail in the plans.

The State of Minnesota will be granting operational authority of the trail to the City of Delano, and the city will have the responsibility of maintaining the trail in Delano.