May 21, 2019 Public Hearing-Municipal Consent for US Hwy 53 Reconstruction Project

May 21, 2019 Minutes

Municipal Consent Public Hearing for the

U.S. Highway 53 Reconstruction Project, International Falls


A public hearing was conducted by the City Council of the City of International Falls, Minnesota in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building on the 21st day of May, 2019 at the hour of 6:30 P.M.


MEMBERS PRESENT:     Councilors Buller, Ditsch, Krause, and Mayor Anderson.

MEMBERS ABSENT:     Councilor Droba


PUBLIC HEARING: Welcome and Introductions

Mayor Anderson opened the public hearing and welcomed all those in attendance. He asked that those present introduce themselves. A Sign-up Sheet was distributed and nineteen (19) people were present. Mayor Anderson presented a brief history of the work done to reach this public hearing and explained the start was the Gateway Corridor project work that was done years ago. He explained that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has been preparing a preliminary study and “complete streets” design work in conjunction with KLJ consulting engineers (Kevin Nelson, P.E., was present). He indicated the project start date is anticipated to be March 2020. Brian Larson, Project Manager, District 1, MnDOT, was introduced to present information on the proposed project.



Brian Larson, Project Manager, District 1, MnDOT

















Mr. Larson reviewed information via a PowerPoint presentation and distributed a MnDOT handout for the project dated May 21, 2019. He emphasized that this was a major project undertaking and will take about two (2) years to construct the proposed improvements. The bid letting for the project was expected to be March of 2020, construction starting in May of 2020, and work extending through the summer of 2021. Landscaping, amenities, and tree planting would be performed in 2022. He stated the purpose of the project is to:

  • Restore the structural integrity of the road surface, improve the ride, and replace the storm sewer system,
  • Address noncompliant Americans with Disability Act (ADA) sidewalks and curb ramps,
  • Modernize the look and feel of Highway 53 through implementation of a “complete street” design philosophy, and
  • Improve the ease of maintenance into the future.

The requirement to have a public hearing for the Municipal Consent process is to serve as a check on MnDOT to allow the local municipalities to grant approval and “buy-in” to the proposed project improvements. He indicated much work has yet to be done regarding environmental documentation, appraisals for easements, further design work, and preparation of plans and specifications. The geometric layout that has been prepared to date is based upon two public information meetings held in October of 2017 and April of 2018.


Mr. Larson further presented detail on the project description, construction schedule, estimated costs, and maintenance obligations of MnDOT and the City. He said a new Maintenance Agreement is needed. Total costs are estimated to be $10 – 11.5 million with a City share of approximately $1.3 – 1.5 million. He said the decisions about project traffic management and detours have yet to be made. The next step is for the City Council to consider the public input from this meeting, make some decisions about what the City would like included in the project design, and to adopt a resolution granting municipal consent to MnDOT. The municipal consent will allow the project to move forward as proposed or with modifications.


In response to a question, Mr. Larson explained the project will include removing overhead power lines from the Highway 53 right-of-way to the alley west of the highway. Minnesota Power will pay the costs to move the poles and power lines. The City will need to pay the costs of the hook-ups to the individual buildings from the west alley. He also said encroachments of signs, parking areas, and drain tile, etc., will need to be addressed as part of this project. The presentation was concluded at 7:04 P.M. and questions were entertained until 7:24 P.M.



Questions were raised and answered about a variety of topics. The highway will have two driving lanes (one north, one south) with a 13 ft. wide center turn lane. There will be 4 ft. shoulders with two feet of pavement and two feet of concrete gutter in front of the curb. Some driveways will be removed to reduce conflict points and improve safety. There was discussion about the road elevation being lowered about 1.5 ft. between 18th St. and 22nd Street. Jerry Arason distributed some photos of his property and wanted snow removal handled differently just north of 11th Street. Mr. Larson explained that the green space between the sidewalk/trail and the road surface will allow more room for snow storage in the winter. Discussion followed on the turning radius at 4th St. and 3rd Ave. and the difficulties encountered by trucks with trailers. Councilor Krause said that intersection was problematic. MnDOT has “softened” the radius there and removed a driveway entrance to the service station to allow for an ADA compliant curb ramp at that corner. Mayor Anderson reiterated that there were many intersections along the highway where the corner radius was a concern. Mr. Arason discussed the number of trucks crossing into Canada with large, oversized loads. Ms. Pauline Glennie hoped that the impacts to all businesses could be minimized including driveway changes, trail encroachment closer to her building and trees, etc.


Brian Larson summarized that there is still some uncertainty about how traffic will be managed and where detours will be established. He emphasized that the detours will be painful as will construction activity during the summer seasons. At 7:24 P.M., with there being no further questions or concerns, the public had an opportunity to meet individually with Kevin Nelson of KLJ to review how the project design may affect their specific, individual properties along the highway corridor.



Mayor Anderson adjourned the public hearing and meeting at 8:25 P.M.




ATTEST: Robert W. Anderson, Mayor



Kenneth R. Anderson, City Administrator

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