July 2, 2015 at 11:45 a.m.

MnDOT open house explains roundabout project for 2016

MnDOT open house explains roundabout project for 2016
MnDOT open house explains roundabout project for 2016

People filtered in-and-out of the Sunrise Elementary School where an open house was held June 23 on a proposed roundabout in North Branch.  The site is at the intersection of state Highway 95 and Grand Avenue (County Road 14) on the east side of downtown.

MnDOT  Engineer Dmitry Tomasevich answered questions from citizens,  using large scale aerial photos and maps for reference.  

Tomasevich said the project is slated for construction as soon as school is no longer in session, summer 2016.  The intersection funnels thousands of pupils and other school/sports related traffic.  Work will be done under-traffic with as few detour episodes as possible, but there’s no practical way the roundabout could be installed during the school year.   
MnDOT is also aware of the traffic situation for Hay Days in September and that #95 through North Branch is the main access route to the events, he added.

The state will have to close the work site at certain points,  and many open house visitors had concerns about detour disruptions.  The “official” detour, which haulers and  heavier vehicles are expected to use coming from the east is north, up Keystone off Hwy 95.   They’ll go west at County Road 9 and cross over to continue west or come down #30 into town.

Tomasevich said the state has prioritized the North Branch roundabout project due to the inability of the four-way intersection to handle traffic at peak periods and for safety enhancement.

He stressed that studies of roundabout installations on state highways elsewhere show decreases in crash incidents and fewer injuries. There is not the exposure for T-bone or higher speed rear-end collisions that occur at lighted intersections.  Drivers will get notice of the roundabout well before entering the zone and speeds will be slowed accordingly.

The project is estimated at $1.8 million and a portion affecting the county road segments requires tapping into county state aid funds.  

In conversation at the open house Commissioner Rick Greene commented that the county actually would prefer this major arterial road (#14) being improved south of town, avoiding the schools and residential neighborhoods, as part of a much longer-range approach potentially closer to or along the north Hemingway alignment.   

County Road 14 and Highway 95 could intersect further east of this roundabout intersection.  But years of pre-planning to lay the groundwork for that vision have yet to start and the state has this intersection on its work plan now.


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