Pedestrian overpass concepts to go to council, public

MARSHALL – City officials got a look Wednesday at preliminary sketches for a pedestrian overpass at the intersection of Saratoga Street and Minnesota Highway 23. After discussing a possible design for the project, they said the next step will be to take it before both the public and the Marshall City Council in the next three weeks.

A project including a pedestrian overpass and proposed traffic safety improvements at the Saratoga/23 intersection has been in the planning stages since last summer, when Marshall received a $3.5 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. However, improving pedestrian and vehicle safety at the intersection has been a priority for years, said Marshall Public Works Director Glenn Olson.

Olson presented the design concepts to members of the city’s public improvement and transportation committee and the Marshall Area Transportation Group in a joint meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Also present at the meeting were representatives from Marshall Municipal Utilities and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Marshall Public Safety Director Rob Yant and Lyon County Highway Engineer Aaron VanMoer.

Safety improvements at the Saratoga/23 intersection had been high on the area transportation group’s list of priorities before Marshall received Corridor Investment Management Strategy Grant funding from MnDOT, Olson said. At different times, stoplights, reduced speed limits, a pedestrian underpass and an interchange were all considered for the intersection, he said. The overpass is considered the best alternative for pedestrians and cyclists, Olson said.

The overpass would be located on the west side of Saratoga Street, where there is less conflict with power lines and existing driveways and where Olson said the city had an easier time obtaining easements from Western Community Action to build on its property.

The overpass would have an 1,800-foot span, Olson said, with a long, straight access ramp instead of stairs or a spiraling ramp. The span of the overpass would be supported by piers, although the design concept still had a relatively open look. For example, there was no support pier or wall in the very center of the span, between the lanes of center of the span, between the lanes of Highway 23.

“It’s a complete span of the highway, basically from right of way to right of way,” Olson said. The design would be better for driving visibility and snow removal, he said. Olson said the support piers would also have the option of being lined with textured concrete or brick to be more aesthetically pleasing.

The overpass would be about 14 feet wide, with a 10-foot walkway, Olson said. A metal railing system would be both decorative and help prevent accidents or objects being dropped from the overpass, he said. There could be an option for some kind of low-key city signage on the railing part of the bridge, he said.

The project would also include access trails and crosswalks connecting to the overpass, plantings and landscaping and reconstruction of Saratoga Street between Southview Drive and Highway 23. The street reconstruction would lower the roadway on Saratoga.

Plans for the 23/Saratoga project would also include construction of traffic islands and turn lanes for a “reduced conflict intersection” on Minnesota Highway 23. A reduced conflict intersection is designed to improve safety by cutting down on the number of opposing lanes of traffic drivers have to cross. Drivers making left turns onto or off of 23 would merge into turn lanes and use a designated U-turn lane. Drivers on Saratoga Street wanting to cross the highway would also have to use the U-turns.

Last summer, the city was awarded a $3.5 million Corridor Investment Management Strategy grant from MnDOT for the pedestrian overpass and reduced-conflict intersection project. Under the grant conditions, the project must be let for construction by June 5, 2015.

An additional $1.8 million for the project will need to be paid for by the city, said Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig. Martig said he would recommend the city pursue capital improvement project bonds for the additional funding. He noted that this type of financing would require unanimous approval by the city council, however.

Committee and transportation group members also discussed a tentative timeline for the project design concept to go before both the public and the city council. Martig recommended that the city hold a public information meeting in the first week of May, so the city council could consider the design at its next meeting May 13.

“I think that’s very important,” said area transportation group chairman David Sturrock.

The public improvement and transportation committee voted in favor of a motion to recommend the overpass design concept to the city council at its May 13 meeting.