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September 15, 2019

9/5/2019 3:08:00 PM
Input on Hwy. 8 being solicited now

An upgrade of US Highway 8 from Forest Lake to Karmel Avenue in Chisago City will begin in 2023. Chisago County rather than the Minnesota Department of Transportation is taking the lead, and is encouraging active input from the communities involved.

On Aug. 27, Chisago County Highway Engineer Joe Triplett and Chisago County Commissioner George McMahon met with the Chisago City Council to discuss progress on advance planning for the upgrade of US Highway 8 and to urge the city’s ongoing participation.

Triplett assured the council that the county plans to provide them with periodic updates. He reported that public input was sought at a meeting at Lord of the Lakes Lutheran Church in July and at pop-up events at the Chisago City Farmer’s Market and at Brink’s Market.

The county’s next step will be to develop a “purpose and needs statement” for the federal government. “Right now we are in data collection and are working on an environmental evaluation and have submitted a federal build grant,” Triplett said.

He emphasized the importance of active participation from all of the cities’ involved, which includes Chisago City, Wyoming and Forest Lake.

“We will be leaning heavily on the city and its staff to tell us what they want accesses and intersections to look like, developments coming down the road, and what does the city planning commission want to do with zoning?” said Triplett. “Part of our funding efforts will be not only to finance the highway project but local systems as well.”  

“This is our communities’ lifeline, not only for commuters but also to get and attract business. With 22,000 cars traveling on it each day, Highway 8 provides a good opportunity, but right now nobody can get on or off of it.”

Triplett told the council that the county is now in the predesign phase and is going after federal money to help fund the project. “We hope by this time next year to have found the project will result in no significant environmental impact.”
Councilman Jeremy Dresel told Triplett, “We’re working on our comprehensive plan, and we’ll want to coordinate timing.”

Triplett added, “We are pushing to add the Swedish Immigrant Trail to this project area; we want to run it down this corridor and connect to the Hardwood Creek Trail.”

Commissioner McMahon provided an update on the legislative process, explaining, “We’re meeting with the bonding committee members from both the Senate and the House. We’re asking for a lot from the bonding bill next year and so far the reception has been good.”

When future visits with the House and Senate committees are scheduled, McMahon said he would like to have a large group of citizens in attendance to describe the importance of Highway 8 for both local business and public safety.

Highway 8 is both a federal and a state highway, a fact that wasn’t lost on District 8 Congressman Pete Stauber,

Tripplet said. The county will be seeking both federal and state dollars. “We’re trying to do this project without matching dollars from the county or local communities.”

In other business, the council:
- Approved a request from the Chisago City Volunteer Fire Department for up to $2,000 from the city’s share of pull-tab proceeds to fund the annual steak fry for volunteer firefighters. The steak fry was previously funded by the sale of ads on the fire department calendar, but the department reports these have been getting harder and harder to sell.

City Administrator John Pechman reported that the city’s pull tab fund currently has a balance of $20,000 of which $1,500 is committed to the annual Lighting Festival and $1,300 for city volunteer recognition. Pull tab proceeds also helped pay for the annual Ki Chi Sago Days fireworks display.

- Accepted a bid from Custom Christmas Lighting of Chanhassen for installation of Christmas lights in Moberg Park. The original lighting proposal of $7,105 was reduced to $5,250. The majority of the lights will be converted to LED resulting in an energy saving for the city. This is the first year the city will use a private firm to install the lighting, which will be expanded due to adding lighting the new structures in the park as well as the lighted trees.

- Agreed to spend $5,250 for mechanical restoration of the Verdin clock in the city triangle in the center of town. Recent repair of the carillon and clock controls at a cost of $9,700 got the clock working after two years of silence; however, technicians found that the clock was also in need of mechanical restoration. With an endorsement from Mayor Bob Gustafson, the council authorized the work which will include delivery and installation of a new motor with two sets of hands, replacing old fluorescent lighting with LED lights and installing a new photo-cell.

“I really like the clock; I like hearing it,” Mayor Gustafson told fellow council members. “It’s part of our community, you can hear it all over town, and I would like to see it restored.”  As Gustafson spoke, the clock began to chime the hour and could be heard inside the council room. The mechanical work will take place next year. Funds will come from the city’s gas franchise fees.

- Decided to take under consideration a request for speed limit signage for both Karmel Avenue and Liberty Lane in the vicinity of the new Lakeside Elementary School. Chisago Lakes School District has asked the city for a maximum of 35 mph zones during non-school hours and non-school days and 25 mph zones between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on school days.  The current speed limit on Karmel is 40 mph.

Council action on the school district request is complicated by a new state law that went into effect Aug. 1. The legislature authorized Minnesota cities to set speed limits on certain city streets but only after adopting procedures for setting the new speed limits. Previously, before changing speed limits, cities were required to ask the Minnesota Department of Transportation to conduct traffic analysis, complete its report and then set the speed limit.  

Now, before changing speed limits, cities need to work with their city engineer to develop standards to apply to speed limit changes. On Aug. 27, the council agreed that it wanted to be responsive to the school’s request but is not prepared to adopt a policy on speed limit changes.  As a result, it is unlikely that any action will be taken on the school’s request until at least next spring. In the interim, the city will work with the school to begin collecting traffic counts, foot traffic and other necessary data.

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