2/28/2013 12:10:00 PM County Commissioners see first draft of long range transportation plan, more meetings later
BY DENISE MARTIN
by DENISE MARTIN A little over 10 percent of Chisago County road miles need to be “rebalanced” and county commissioners last week saw a preliminary plan outlining some of what is being recommended to enhance local road systems over the next 20 years. The balancing act means making sure roadways are under the jurisdiction suited to their actual use, and that funding sources to support specific roads are appropriate. State aid highways, main arterials, inter-regional corridors, township roads or city streets...they all have their own function and their own caregivers.
SRF Consulting Group Inc. was hired to create a countywide transportation plan. It’s been in the works for several months and an early version got its first review Feb. 20 by the County Board. County Engineer Joe Triplett and Brian Shorten, a principal with SRF, both stressed that additional public meetings for input will be offered. Shorten said it is common, at this point in a project like this, the outside input hasn’t been heavy, and it’s not until there’s actual issues identified and mapped out that people react to a plan, Shorten explained.
The idea is to finalize the county transportation plan founded on “cooperative changes,” he added. In balancing the system Triplett said some stretches of road need to either be moved “up (to the state) or down” (to townships) and he said approximately 42 miles are shown in this early version as routes the county would shed. Commissioners Mike Robinson and George McMahon commented that local township and city response is key to having any success. They wanted the staff to get out there and make the draft plan available.
Triplett agreed saying local feedback is “vital.” Formation of the plan began in September 2012 with a focus group approach. In November 2012 there was an open house in a large meeting room at the government center. A 15 member Technical Advisory Committee of city, township and MnDOT engineers also met. Area engineers are contracted and hail from a variety of firms like Stantec, WSB, SEH, and Bolton Menk. Shorten said the plan, “...is not hard and fast” at this juncture, but officials are prepared to show rationale for recommendations in the plan.
There are a couple of open houses tentatively being planned for May. The County Board will also see a later version of the plan in a couple months. The final document ought to be adopted this year. The last transportation plan was done in 2005. Shorten likened doing the plan to reviewing your 401K every once in awhile. The roadway system needs can change, as traffic counts rise and fall and interconnectivity to roads in adjacent counties has to be considered. The system balancing process doesn’t take place secretly.
If roads are being turned over to a township the county must hold a public hearing, complete repairs to meet comparable road standards and provide continued maintenance for two years so townships can revise their budget. Reverting roads to a city involves public review as well. The whole idea, said Shorten, is to maximize the efficient use of transportation dollars by having roads in their correct classification and jurisdiction, and to know where the county roads, city streets and township routes are headed long term. Or as Commissioner McMahon joked, “...it’s a road map for our roads.”