At their April 3 meeting, Tim Hruska of the city's engineering firm WHKS updated the council on Highway 44/Main Street reconstruction plans to date, including input from open houses and technical team meetings.

The corridor from Third Avenue west to Second Avenue east will be rebuilt with improvements to the utilities, the street, aesthetics and the Division Avenue intersection.

"We're still on schedule," Hruska said. He then reviewed options.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has set a minimum width of 44 feet for the roadway, but will allow "bump-outs" in areas where pedestrians typically cross as well as spots where traffic should move at a slower pace.

The roadway in those areas would be 36 feet wide. Currently, bump-outs are on the plan in four areas; the school, First Avenue west, Division Avenue and at the east end of the project.

Paul Paige of Hoisington Koegler Group, Minneapolis, provided options for aesthetics, which included streetlights, colored sidewalks, movable concrete planters, trees and more.

The technical team favored a 50 ft. roadway in the business district, and a 44 ft. width from the fire hall to the school, Hruska said.

He said the group had not reached a consensus on bump-outs.

Currently, the street is 52 ft. wide through the business district and 40 ft. in the residential area.

Total estimated costs are $4,262,000, Hruska said. That includes $2,150,000 for roadway improvements, $824,000 for utilities (water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer improvements) and "behind the curb" costs of $1,288,000. MnDOT will contribute $1,500,000.

Hruska then asked the council for direction so he could begin to narrow plans for engineering. Specifically, he asked for decisions on street width, bump-outs, alley closures, the Division Avenue intersection and aesthetics. The construction detour was also brought up.

Main Street being narrowed

Councilman Robert Vogel moved to make the street 48 ft. wide in the business district, 44 ft. wide in the remaining areas. He stated that widening sidewalks "makes sense downtown." Councilman Steve Kemp seconded.

Hruska said most of the additional "behind the curb" space would be on the south side of the highway, but by reducing to 48 feet, even the north side would gain a foot in most areas.

The added width would aid in meeting ADA requirements, he said. Paige said that a range of aesthetic considerations would benefit from the added space, since it would be easier to fit off-street improvements into the plan.

The council discussed maneuvering requirements for trucks and farm equipment, noting that not all downtown businesses would favor a narrower Main Street.

Noting the long-term benefits of wider sidewalks, Vogel said, "These improvements are going to outlast almost all the businesses, anyway."

Mayor Saundra Solum said, "This is hard for me (voting for a narrower street) being a farm girl."

The motion passed with one "nay" from councilmember Lorilyn Dehning.

Kemp made a motion to allow bump-outs in the plan, seconded by councilmember Rachel Storlie.

"I hate bump-outs," Vogel said. "I think they rank right up there with pedestrian malls."

Solum said that by the school in particular, bump-outs would slow traffic and shorten the distance to cross the street. The motion passed with Vogel casting a lone "no."

Two alleys closed

The council approved closure of two alleys entering Main Street, and by consensus decided to leave a third open.

Those will be formally voted on by resolution at a later meeting, since the exact length of the closure and legal description will need to be included, city attorney Joe Hammell pointed out.

The alleys that will be closed (at the block entering Main Street) are next to the Ye Olde Opera House building and across the street from the Syttende Mai Hus in Viking Memorial Park (next to HIS Store and Robert Vogel's business Pathfinders CRM, LLC).

Solum voted "no" on the second alley, which she said offered access to the post office's drive-up mailbox at the end of that alley.

The other received a unanimous vote. Vogel and Kemp made the motions and seconds. An alley across from Trinity Lutheran Church was discussed, but no motion to close was put forward.

Aesthetics set at 'mid-level'

Another consensus was to allow "mid-level" spending for plan aesthetics, neither following the cheapest nor most expensive paths.

No specific details were pinned down, but the council will be able to approve and prune as the plan progresses.

Vogel asked for additional signage. Paige said that MnDOT would not approve that in the bid, but the design will allow for the addition of "public attraction" signs.

Maple Drive to be one way

The council reviewed six options for the intersection of Main Street and North and South Division Avenue (as well as Maple Drive), then decided on a seventh plan of their own invention.

MnDOT favored Alternative Three, Hruska said. That plan would close the south end of Maple Drive, trimming the five-pointed intersection to four.

"I think there is enough of a concern safety wise that we need to fix this intersection," Kemp said.

"Yes, but can we do it without closing off a main street?" Vogel asked.

The council decided to take some features from options two and four, making the southernmost block of Maple Drive one-way (northeast only), while maintaining two-way traffic on both Division avenues (towards the Fest Building and towards the post office).

Alternative Four would have made both streets (Maple and Division) north of Main Street one ways, while option two would have shifted South Division to the east, allowing two-way traffic on all the streets.

The new plan will include bump-outs. That should allow drivers coming up the South Division hill to pull further north when stopping at Main Street, gaining better visibility.

Traffic will not be entering the busy intersection from Maple Drive at all, members noted. The vote was unanimous.

Detour discussed

Also by consensus, the council approved a detour rather than plan for "phased construction".

Hruska said that phasing construction to accommodate traffic is more costly, increases construction time and is more restrictive to front-door access.

Vogel asked that detour routes be settled on as soon as possible since the Spring Grove EDA is developing plans to bring visitors to town during the project.

Public Utilities Director Paul Morken suggested utilizing the Syttendi Mai detour route, which snakes through several narrow streets throughout the south side of Spring Grove.

Hruska said he will act on the council's decisions and incorporate them into the "geometric layout" plan which will go to MnDOT later this month.