Alternate route proposed for 21st Avenue

The city council is looking into a proposal from a former Princeton mayor for extending 21st Avenue from First Street to the city’s main industrial park along a route different than what the city had been considering.

The project to extend the avenue is still only in a discussion/planning stage, with the funding sources undetermined for the project that would cost more than $1 million no matter what route is chosen.

The avenue now runs from Highway 95 to a short distance south of First Street along the city’s Aero Business Park. The route the council has been considering for some time would extend the avenue south along the edge of the airport to the west side of the city’s main industrial park. From there it would connect with a street through the industrial park to eventually connect with Sherburne County 45 to the east.

Former Princeton mayor Richard L. Anderson pushed for the alternate route at last Thursday’s city council meeting. He showed two aerial-map diagrams to the council – one depicting the route that the council has been considering and the other showing Anderson’s proposal.

Anderson’s route would have the south end of 21st Avenue turn east through a grove of evergreens located next to First Street and go to the west edge of the Highway 169 bypass and then follow the west edge of the highway until connecting with the north end of where Sherburne County Road 45 had been. Before the bypass was built County Road 45 continued north to connect with Old Highway 18, the street that runs past the school bus barn.

Twenty-first Avenue was known as Pine Loft Road for years, because it ran past the Pine Loft Restaurant and Lounge. The business closed about five years ago. The Madre Loca Mexican restaurant opened in the same building about two years ago.

City officials have looked at the extension of the avenue to the industrial park as a possible way to reduce some of the traffic congestion in downtown Princeton at certain times of the day. The theory is that much of the traffic coming out of the main industrial park in the afternoon would perhaps use the extended 21st Avenue rather than Rum River Drive.

One of Anderson’s selling points for his proposed route was that traffic from an extended 21st Avenue would not go through the belly of the industrial park that he said is congested enough with truck traffic.


Crosswind runway factor for Anderson

Anderson’s motivation for his proposed alternative route was that he wants to see the airport get a crosswind runway. The route the city has been looking at would get in the way of that. He noted that the crosswind runway is listed in the airport master plan but has never been started.

Anderson pressed for the need of a crosswind runway, saying the future of aviation is the light sport type, which he said involves light planes. They can be buffeted around like a “kite” if the wind is  going across a runway, therefore the need for a crosswind runway, he explained.

As a pilot ages, they could lose their “medical license,” Anderson said, referring to the certificate that is required for flying  many common types of aircraft.

Anderson added that a benefit with his proposed route for extending 21st Avenue is that it would give many Baldwin Township residents a quick route to the Walmart store planned between Highway 95 and First Street on the city’s west side.

Anderson acknowledged that there is wetland along part of his proposed route but didn’t think that would necessarily be a hurdle.

It would require an environmental assessment, City Administrator Mark Karnowski pointed out.


Council’s response

“It’s something worth exploring,” council member Thom Walker said of the proposed route.

Mayor Jeremy Riddle added that he didn’t think the city would have the money to fund the road but that maybe Sherburne and Mille Lacs counties would.

Anderson proposed that the extension of 21st Avenue be a joint venture of Sherburne and Mille Lacs counties, since the route would be in both.

As city consulting engineer Mike Nielson of WSB & Associates pointed out after the council meeting, money is a factor in extending 21st Avenue, no matter which route is chosen.

But the council mainly addressed other factors during their discussion last Thursday. Riddle, for example, said that if the avenue extension results in less traffic moving east of the industrial park it could take pressure off the intersection near the Burger King and Marathon gas station.

Council member Paul Whitcomb said he likes the idea of a second access to the airport. Anderson’s proposal included a road linking the airport with the avenue extension.

The council didn’t take action on Anderson’s ideas other than to have Nielson look into how the Anderson route might be feasible.