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Frustrated trying to turn left on Broadway? Help is on the way

Help is on the way for drivers trying to make a left turn on Alexandria's busy Broadway.

Green turning arrows will be included in the new crossing lights that will be installed at the intersections with 5th, 6th and 7th Avenues when Broadway is reconstructed this summer.

The topic popped up at Monday's Alexandria City Council meeting when a resident, Gene Baker, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. He said that long lines of drivers are in Broadway's left turn lanes, some of them into the intersection, waiting for traffic to clear on a green light and then a yellow light, until they are forced to make the turn on a red light, which is illegal. He noted that the problem is especially bad on 10th Avenue. "What's a person going to do?" he asked.

After Baker expressed his frustration, City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven noted that the green arrows should help the traffic flow. But since the project is only taking place on 3rd through 8th Avenue, 10th Avenue will still have long lines in the left-turn lanes.

The city council asked Schoonhoven to look into the cost of adding green arrows at the 10th Avenue intersection as well. Council member Todd Jensen added that drivers who are going straight on Broadway are adding to the problem by racing through yellow lights, which doesn't allow any time for left-turning drivers to get through the intersection.

Help might also be on the way for another common complaint in Alexandria: No public restrooms in the downtown area.

City Hall has restrooms but they’re only available during business hours and not on the weekends.

This could change. The city is exploring the idea of making public restrooms part of a plan to redevelop the Old Broadway property, which has stood vacant for two years.

The overall project represents a three-way public/private collaborative effort among Old Broadway’s owners (Copper Leaf Properties), the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and ORB Management Corporation. They’re considering a multi-level, multi-use structure that would include retail and public/private office space on the first floor and residential units on the second floor.

Last month, the development team for the project told city representatives that the infrastructure at the old gazebo part of the property could be converted into a public restroom.

City Administrator Marty Schultz updated the council on the project Monday. He said the city is now waiting for more information from the development team about possible options.

In other action, the council:

--Was informed that the eighth annual Polar Plunge for Special Olympics will take place Sunday, February 23 near Arrowwood on Lake Darling. Police officer Keith Melrose, coordinator of the event, said they hope to raise $100,000 this year. Last year, 510 plungers raised $96,000, a huge increase from the first year when 45 plungers raised $7,500. As of Monday, 412 people signed up to take the plunge, including council member Jensen.

--Gave final approval to a gas energy franchise fee ordinance. It’s part of the franchise agreement between the city and CenterPoint Energy, which was recently renewed for another 10 years. The ordinance continues to impose the existing fee of 5 percent on the company’s gross revenues. This is the same fee structure used in the city’s cable TV franchise. In 2011, the city received $376,484 from the gas franchise fee. It slipped to $277,314 in 2012 and rose to $371,398 last year. The fee is subject to natural gas prices and weather.

--Was informed that the newly formed Charter Commission will hold its first meeting on Friday, February 21 at noon in the large conference room at City Hall. The city functions under a Home Rule Charter last amended on November 2, 1976. The Charter Commission will study the local charter and make sure the city is following it. The chief judge of the 7th Judicial District appointed seven local residents to the commission, based on recommendations from the council.

--Was informed that the estimated cost of two street projects the city is considering doing this year – local street overlays and the reconstruction of Victoria Heights – is $740,200. The projects may be included as part of a bond issue for the phase four, part two water extension project in the newly annexed area of Alexandria Township. A resolution to schedule a public hearing on the bonding will be on the council’s February 24 agenda.

--Was informed that the February 24 council meeting will be the first one to use new software that will allow council members to access the informational packets for their meetings electronically. They will receive e-mails directing them to a web portal.

--Approved the following licenses: heating – The Jamar Company; taxi service – Midwest Taxi; charitable gambling – Alexandria Girls Fastpitch and Theatre L’Homme Dieu of Alexandria and St. Cloud; one-day liquor license - Fort Chippewa VFW Post 936 for a fundraising event on March 15 at the Runestone Community Center.

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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