Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Safe Routes group plans for future


Lois E. Johnson

Superintendent Robert Indihar, left, accepts a Certificate of Appreciation from Meghann Levitt (center), coordinator for the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant and Safe Routes to School project for the committee's work the past six years. Also pictured are Ann Haugen (front, right), phy-ed instructor for the school, Clayton Ohlin (back, left) and Byron Kuster.

The final plan recommendation for safe walking and biking routes to the new Moose Lake school building was presented to the Safe Routes to School group at the November 21 meeting. It was the last meeting of its kind, as coordinator Meghann Levitt will no longer conduct the meetings.

"You have been meeting since 2010 and you have accomplished a great deal," said Levitt.

Justin Otsea of Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (ARDC) presented the final Safe Routes plan for review. He pointed out where statements had been added in the various categories of the plan to accommodate the proposed changes to the intersection of Highway 73 and County Road 10 to create a safe route for students walking or biking to school.

Two alternatives for a safe route to school were shown on a map:

- Priority A: The route is laid out along Lakeshore Drive to the end and a trail would be created across state land near the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) maintenance facility to continue the route to the 73/10 intersection.

- Priority B: A paved trail on the west side of Highway 73 from the Highway 73/County Road 61 intersection to the 73/10 intersection.

Two alternatives have been suggested for the trail from the intersection to the school: along County Road 10 to the school or along County Road 10 to Moosehorn Drive, near Shopko, across school district property near the bus garage and on to the school.

On the plan, it stated a pedestrian warning beacon would be installed on Highway 73 from both directions to warn drivers of possible pedestrians crossing the highway.

"Radar signs would slow drivers down," said Otsea. "There would be bike racks placed in front of the school close to the entrances."

Representatives of the MnDOT have met with county, city and school officials to present plans for a round-about at the Highway 73/County Road 10 intersection.

Superintendent Robert Indihar told the Safe Routes to School group he had contacted someone from Blue Earth, where round-abouts are common.

"A round-about is safer than a stoplight," he said. "The Blue Earth people said that, if we have a choice, get a round-about. There still can be accidents. I do not feel comfortable with anyone crossing a round-about yet.

"We don't have to make a decision for a year or two. We don't have a grant to make a trail in the first place. After the round-about is built, we will see."

Otsea and Levitt said a Letter of Intent to apply for an infrastructure grant to create a trail has been submitted.

"We will be able to apply for a full Safe Routes Infrastructure Grant for trail construction in 2020," said Levitt. "That will give the residents time to get used to the round-about."

There was more discussion about round-abouts.

"I'm from Mankato," said Otsea. "They switched to double round-abouts and built 10 in two years. Now it is the standard. They are on county roads, too. Traffic is continuously moving; it feels like you are getting there faster. Dad drove a truck. At first he said he was nervous and hesitant with a round-about. Six months later he said he didn't know why it was done the other way."

Levitt said, if the round-about were built in Moose Lake, it would only be the second one in northern Minnesota. The other one is in Grand Rapids.

"Moose Lake can be a shining example for a round-about," she said. "Moose Lake can lead the way like it has in so many other things."

As the meeting concluded, Levitt said she will download all of the work (documents and maps) of the Safe Routes to School group on a flash drive and give it to the school. That information will include the nutrition and Active School Day documents. Action Steps and progress on the steps will be included.

In the future, the Safe Routes to School committee will be combined with the Wellness Committee, Levitt added.

Supt. Indihar said a meeting of the combined committees will be set for early 2017 to look at goals and methods to accomplish the goals. He said the group may only need to meet two or three times a year.

Levitt said she will monitor the group and be available to attend, if required.

She presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Safe Routes group members in recognition of their valuable work in the area of Safe Routes To School and their commitment to the priority and safety of their student bicyclists and pedestrians. The certificate also recognized the important community collaborations that have made the work possible.


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