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Broadway crashes bump up but still low

The number of crashes on Alexandria's Broadway between Fourth and Eighth Avenues increased last year to 18, five more than in 2015.

The number, however, is still lower than the average amount of crashes that took place before the busy street was reconstructed.

City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven gave an update about the crashes at the council's Monday night meeting.

Here are the number of crashes in the five years before Broadway was reconstructed: 2009 — 26, 2010 — 28, 2011 — 29, 2012 — 19, 2013 — 24. That's an average of 25.2 crashes.

The street was closed during reconstruction in 2014 so that year isn't included. Here's the data since the road re-opened: 2015 — 13, 2016 — 18. That's an average of 15.5, a drop of 38 percent.

Meanwhile, traffic volume on Broadway between Third and Sixth Avenue, which is measured by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, continues to increase. It's gone from 14,200 in 2010 to 14,500 in 2012 to 15,500 in 2016.

Schoonhoven also noted that traffic on County Road 46, known as the southeast bypass, increased from 7,300 in 2012 to 8,600 in 2016.

Staff will continue to monitor the data and report back to the council periodically, Schoonhoven said.

Local street overlays

The council approved an engineering agreement for local street overlay projects next year.

The engineering, provided by Widseth Smith Nolting, will cost an estimated $64,204.

The total budget for the projects is $379,000, which will comt from Municipal State Aid ($254,000) and the city's paving levy ($125,000).

Streets that are included in the 2018 overlays are Will-O-Bee Lane, Royal Court, Royal Drive, Nevada Street SW, Darling Avenue E, Elmwood Drive, Carlson Boulevard, Irving Place, Lakepark Place, Lakepark Avenue, Darling Place, Victor Street, Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue.

As in past years, all streets will be bid as separate bid schedules so the city can adjust the projects to meet the budget.

Walmart Drive delay

Work is proceeding on Walmart Drive but the project is about two weeks behind schedule, according to Schoonhoven.

The substantial completion date for the project is Oct. 13 but the contractor now expects to complete the project around the first week of November.

The delay was the result of a late start and wasn't related to the weather, Schoonhoven said.

Under the terms of the contract, the city is entitled to collect liquidated damages of $1,000 per day for each day the project runs past the completion date. Schoonhoven noted that the damages pale in comparison to the $10,000 per-day penalty the city included in the Broadway reconstruction contract, but that project was federally funded.

The contractor is nearly done with the first two phases of the project and two-way traffic will soon open on the entire frontage road between Twin Boulevard and Doolittle's.

The third phase includes reconstructing the intersection of the frontage road and 44th Avenue. In addition to new pavement, the work includes installing new curb and gutter, catch basins, storm sewer and a free right-turn lane for northbound traffic.

Schoonhoven urged local residents to support the businesses in the construction zone, which remain open for businesses throughout the project.

Street project funding for 2018

The city should receive a bit more money — $20,015 — in Municipal State Aid next year for streets that are designated to receive the funding.

Alexandria's allocation will increase 2 percent to $1,021,196, according to the state's projections. Overall, the total allocation for all 148 cities that receive the aid is expected to be flat, according to Schoonhoven.

Allocations are based on total population and a city's roadway mileage. Schoonhoven said that city staff works hard to manage its Municipal State Aid system in order to maximize the city's allocation.

Tax abatement extended

The council agreed to extend the city's tax abatement agreement with Lakes Hotel Group, the company plans to build an 82-unit Holiday Inn Express and Suites in south Alexandria, east of the Holiday Inn, with a new public road and city services.

The project was expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017 but the developer has requested to extend the date to Dec. 31, 2018. The delay was caused by a number of factors, including the Douglas County Board's decision to not offer the abatement.

The developer will receive a rebate of taxes over a period of eight years or less. The rebate is capped at $400,000 or 50 percent of the total cost of the public improvements, whichever occurs first. The project is expected to increase the market value of the land to $6.8 million.

Construction hasn't started yet.

As part of the agreement, the developer must complete the road and other improvements in order to receive the abatement.

The abatement period will change for taxes payable from 2020 to 2027 instead of 2019 to 2026.

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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