GAYLORD - A $10.1 million project in concert with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) designed to create safer pedestrian crossings, enhance downtown entry and calm traffic has the ire of a number of Gaylord residents.
The rub comes from detour routes presented for the four-phase project set to begin sometime after Monday, June 23.
Supporters for a change in the detour appeared before the Gaylord City Council on Wednesday night. Councilors refused to make any changes, and the group walked out of the meeting.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Gaylord resident Scott Kuphal, left, listens to Short Elliott Hendrickson Engineer Justin L. Black talk after presenting arguments against a highway project detour route Wednesday at a Gaylord City Council meeting in Gaylord City Hall.
After the walk out, the council offered a compromise that included alternate routes for trucks.
Earlier in the meeting Scott Kuphal told the city council that he and his neighbors have concerns.
"The issue is a detour route for State Highway 19 traffic through Gaylord is through a residential neighborhood. We are opposed to the idea of having a significant amount of traffic rumbling past our homes day and night," Kuphal said.
Project engineer Justin Black of Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. of Hutchinson said the highway averages 3,200 vehicles a day that would follow the detour for 29 working days. A neighbor of Kuphal at the meeting said he counted 48 semis on the highway between 6 and 8 p.m. one night.
"It's ridiculous," Kuphal said. He presented photos of the detour route with a semi having great difficulty turning off one narrow road onto another without sidewalks, children riding bicycles and women pushing strollers. "... How about putting up signs and barricades for people to follow other detour routes and fine violators?" he asked.
"There is lots of foot traffic on these already worn roads. People who don't own vehicles live in nearby apartments use the road to walk to stores," another man said.
Project detours are "going to affect somebody someplace," Gaylord Mayor Don Boeder said. "Using County Road 10 as a detour? It's got lots of semis on it already and the road has other issues."
"There aren't many other (detour) options, but we don't want to compromise safety," Black said. "There is always a level of inconvenience with these projects."
"I know there are other options," Kuphal said. "There is no room for semis to make the corner on the detour, especially if they meet."
Black said he could open up the street detour radius before the project starts to make room for trucks.
McCann said changing the project would cost more money.
"I understand all the issues. I really do, but changing the project now is almost impossible," Boeder said.
Kuphal said MnDOT officials told him detours could be changed. "Do you want a detour accident on your conscience? It's a poorly lit road at night," Kuphal added.
Boeder said the City of Gaylord could put an extra police patrol on the project detour. Black said the project contractor would be responsible for dust control and road repairs if the street breaks up under truck traffic.
"If you notice project issues, let Kevin (McCann) know so we can deal with it as soon as possible. Thank you for your concerns," Boeder said.
At that point the city council decided not to make any project changes and Kuphal and his neighbors walked out of City Hall. A few minutes later, McCann walked outside City Hall and said the city council was willing to compromise.
Boeder said the City was willing to designate an alternative truck (detour) route on County Roads 8 and 4 during the project to reduce truck traffic on the residential detour. "We're here to help you," Boeder said. Black said he would relay the alternative truck route plans to MnDOT.
City Council President Jim Landaas thanked Kuphal and his neighbors for presenting their concerns in such detail.