Bypass proposal needs more study, county says

MARSHALL – Changing the route of a Lyon County highway as it passes through the city of Minneota could be good for local traffic flow and safety, county commissioners said Tuesday. But would it be worth the effort it would take to make the project happen?

Commissioners said that’s something they would need to think about in-depth, after a discussion on a proposal to make Lyon County Road 10 bypass Minneota.

Lyon County Engineer Aaron VanMoer said County Commissioner Rodney Stensrud asked him to look at the idea of re-routing County Road 10 along the east side of Minneota, along the path of 160th Avenue, or the “Minneota Golf Course road.” VanMoer said the proposal would involve turning ownership of the current County Road 10 and County Road 34 in Minneota back to the city, and then reconstructing 160th Avenue as a county state aid highway. The reconstructed road would run north from Minnesota Highway 68, and then rejoin the current path of County Road 10, northeast of Minneota.

The existing path of County Road 10 takes it through a residential area and directly past the Minneota Public School and the Minneota Manor assisted living facility. There’s currently on-street parking on both sides of the road in that area, VanMoer said.

VanMoer said the last traffic study conducted on County Road 10 was in 2010. At that time, he said, about 1,150 vehicles a day were traveling along County Road 10 inside the Minneota city limits.

“It’s not an axle count,” VanMoer said of the figure – meaning it didn’t separate passenger vehicles from truck and agricultural traffic. However, the rural segment of County Road 10 tallied about 610 vehicles a day, he said. “It can be assumed about half of the traffic on County Road 10 is through traffic.”

Over the past 10 years, VanMoer said, there were nine crashes reported on County Road 10 in Minneota. All involved passenger vehicles, and there were no serious injuries or collisions with pedestrians. Three of the reported crashes involved a moving vehicle hitting a parked one, he said.

VanMoer said he would recommend conducting an updated traffic study to get a better prediction of truck traffic on the highway.

If the county goes through with building a bypass, VanMoer said, then a portion of 160th Avenue could be reconstructed as a paved road, with 12-foot driving lanes and six-foot aggregate shoulders. However, he said there are several possible obstacles. The proposed route – which could add about .06 miles to the total length of a County State Aid Highway – would have to be justified to the state aid system. Part of the proposed route also passes through low ground and poor-quality soil, as well as a floodway for the Yellow Medicine River.

“It’s nothing that can’t be done,” VanMoer said, but the project could require hydraulic studies and extra costs.

Minneota Mayor Bill Ufkin was present at the board meeting, and echoed some of VanMoer’s concerns about the proposal.

“If safety were the only issue, it’d be a no-brainer,” Ufkin said. But Ufkin said a committee should be formed to see if the project would be financially feasible, first.

The committee would need to include engineers and officials from the county, the city of Minneota and Westerheim Township, commissioners said. Stensrud and County Board Chairman Charlie Sanow volunteered to be on the committee.

Negotiations for the sale of the Lockwood Motors Ice Arena took another step forward at Tuesday’s meeting. Commissioners went into closed session to discuss the potential sale of the arena building to the county. After coming out of the closed session, Stomberg said, Stensrud moved that the county offer the Marshall Area Hockey Association $300,000 to buy the arena, contingent on a negotiated purchase agreement. The board voted 4-1 in favor of the motion, with Commissioner Steve Ritter casting the dissenting vote.

This was the second offer the county board has made MAHA for the ice arena building. The hockey association had originally approached the county in January, offering to sell the building for $500,000. (MAHA owns the arena, but the county owns the land it it stands on.) In March, commissioners had voted to offer MAHA $250,000 for the building.

County commissioners also considered how the county might regulate the sale and use of products like flavored cigars and e-cigarettes, after a presentation from Ann Orren and Amy Jelen of Southwest Health and Human Services. SWHHS is working to help reduce tobacco use in Lyon County and to prevent kids from smoking, Orren and Jelen said. However, the rising popularity of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes is presenting new challenges.

“We’re trying to get some education on those different areas,” Jelen said. The fluids used to create inhalable vapor in e-cigarettes aren’t regulated and can contain varying amounts of nicotine, she said. And with lots of fruit and candy flavors available, those products target children.

Orren said SWHHS was asking the county to consider including products like e-cigarettes in its tobacco ordinances and indoor air policies. There were a lot of possible options the county could consider, she said.

Commissioners’ consensus was to look at possible sample ordinances before deciding to take any action on the matter.