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Broadway is a go

After five years of planning, debate and several twists and turns, the Broadway reconstruction plan is a go.

At its meeting Monday night, the Alexandria City Council voted 3-2 to accept bids for the project totaling about $5.7 million.

Sellin Brothers of Hawley was the low bidder, coming in about $685,000 under the estimate.

Besides giving the downtown area a whole new look with pedestrian friendly touches such as benches, a bicycle walking path and shorter crosswalks, the project will also replace aging water and sewer lines buried deep beneath the city.

Because Broadway serves as a state highway, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and state aid is covering the bulk of the cost. Alexandria Light and Power is providing about $1.1 million, Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District is picking up $702,000 and the city’s portion amounts to about $1 million.

The council approved several amenity items that were in the bids as optional or add-on items, including lighted bollards ($77,500), benches ($19,000), waste receptacles ($17,000), bicycle racks ($5,400), and irrigation lines to flower boxes on light poles ($16,835). The council also decided to go with pavers for the sidewalks, a cost of $89,088, instead of colored concrete, which would have been $68,672. The pavers will be funded entirely through MnDOT.

Council members Todd Jensen and Virgil Batesole voted against the bid. Jensen said he agreed with the need to replace the infrastructure but said it was a mistake to narrow a portion of an already dangerous street. He also said too much money was being spent on amenities instead of providing functionality and easier access to businesses.

Batesole repeated many of Jensen’s concerns and also opposed the seven-foot bicycle walking path on the west side of Broadway. He also didn’t like how the council was voting for the bids before it had agreed on a way to come up with its share of the funds. The council is considering three options – using reserves, taking money from its capital improvement fund or dipping into the city’s revolving loan fund.

Council member Dave Benson said he had concerns about some aspects of the project but didn’t want to kill the whole project because of it. He noted that the project is getting significant support from the state and if the city had to do it on its own, businesses would have to pick up some of the cost. No properties are being assessed. Council member Roger Thalman said that if the council voted against the project, the city would have to pick up the full tab.

In addressing Jensen’s comments about narrowing the street, City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven noted that MnDOT is following a new “complete streets” trend, designing roads that are not just for vehicles, but for everyone who uses the streets, including pedestrians. He believes that Broadway will be safer because of the project. He said it will contain 11-foot-wide driving lanes, the same width that drivers have been using on 3rd Avenue since 2005.

During the public comment part of the meeting, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce President Bruce McKirdy urged the council to approve the bids. He said there is only one opportunity to do the project the way it’s planned now; the city would never be able to do it for less money; and updating the infrastructure is a necessity.

At the request of ALP, the council eliminated a $233,000 item in the bids for new light poles. ALP said it will be able to buy and install the lights for a cheaper amount.

The council directed staff to see if the holders for flags, baskets and banners on the light poles can be re-used.

Work on the Broadway reconstruction is expected to begin on May 12.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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