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Unsnarling local traffic

Honk your horn if you've ever been caught in the north side traffic jam at 3rd Avenue and Nokomis Street in Alexandria during your commute to or from work or school.

There's bound to be a whole lot of honking going on, but, hold your horn, there are plans to alleviate traffic congestion at that intersection and several others in the Alexandria area.

Two northbound lanes

According to the Alexandria Area 2030 Transportation Plan, there are plans to add an additional northbound lane on Nokomis Street (Highway 29 North) from 3rd Avenue to just north of County Road 42 (near McDonald's north).

Plus, to the south of the Nokomis and 3rd intersection, an additional northbound lane will be added to Nokomis Street from 3rd to 6th avenues.

Funding has been secured for the Nokomis Street project and construction is reportedly set to begin sometime this summer.

According to 2006 traffic counts, an estimated 18,400 vehicles travel the 2.5-mile stretch of Nokomis Street between 3rd Avenue and County Road 42 daily.

That stretch of Nokomis Street is currently at its capacity for traffic volume, according to reports.

By 2030, an estimated 22,200 vehicles are expected to travel that section of Nokomis Street each day.

The traffic projections are based on an estimated 30 percent population increase in the Alexandria area by 2030.

Three more projects planned

The three other projects listed here are planned, but a start date hasn't been set. However, the following road projects are expected to be complete by 2015:

• 18th Avenue new lanes

A new, two lane roadway will be constructed along 18th Avenue, from Broadway to Nokomis Street, and from Nokomis Street to County Road 46 along Pioneer Road.

This project is under jurisdiction of the city of Alexandria. Funding has not been secured but it has been budgeted in the city's five-year capital improvement plan.

• 50th Avenue upgrade

This project includes an upgrade from a two-lane road to a five-lane roadway; the reconstruction of 50th Avenue will extend from Broadway to the railroad crossing.

According to Alexandria's engineer, Tim Schoonhoven, state and federal funding are pending for this project. The potential start date is sometime in 2015.

• County Road 106 turn lanes

Plans for this stretch of County Road 106 include adding turn lanes from County Road 46 to 50th Avenue.

However, this project is in limbo until there's word on whether or not a new high school will be built along County Road 106. A new high school in the same area of Knute Nelson's Grand Arbor senior living complex is expected to increase daily traffic counts from 2,950 vehicles per day to 6,600 vehicles each day.

Douglas County Public Works Director Dave Robley said, "This plan really lays out what the system will look like 20 years from now. These are projects we'll continue to work on, and ultimately the most effective transportation system to handle traffic."

What's next?

The transportation plan was presented to the Douglas County Board Tuesday. The board approved the plan with a 4 to 1 vote - Commissioner Norm Salto opposed the vote based on a new I-94 interchange recommendation that he didn't agree with (see related story).

After the county board's approval of the plan, the same project outline will be presented to the Alexandria City Council March 28 for its endorsement as well.

If the city council approves the project plan, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is expected to sign off on the project and the final approval will have to come from Thomas Sorel, the state's commissioner of transportation.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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