Counties, city object to runway plan

While the Princeton City Council liked some aspects of former mayor Richard Anderson’s proposed route for a road connecting the First Street area with the city’s main industrial park, it has decided it is “not viable.”

The “not viable” decision was what City Administrator Mark Karnowski instructed city airport advisory board chair Eugene Stoeckel to put into the minutes of the joint meeting that the council and airport board had Monday this week.

The decision to scrap the Anderson route proposal came toward the end of a nearly two hour discussion of the two boards on Monday about how 21st Avenue should run if extended from just south of First Street to the main industrial park.

Sherburne and Mille Lacs Counties raised several objections to the route that Anderson proposed after Anderson had presented the idea to the city council on April 26. Anderson said that the two counties could make it a joint project. Mayor Jeremy Riddle and the council agreed that the city couldn’t afford to fund Anderson’s proposal, even with possible federal cost share.

The city has for some years been discussing the possibility of extending 21st Avenue south along the east edge of the airport and into the industrial park. The thought has been that it could relieve some of the traffic congestion in the downtown during parts of the day.

The avenue now runs from Highway 95 to a short distance south of First Street.

Anderson’s proposal for the extension was to basically run it south on a path just west of the Highway 169 bypass and hook up with a spot near the northeast side of the industrial park. Anderson pushed for such a route out of concern that the city’s proposed route would prohibit the future construction of a crosswind runway because of air traffic zones.

Anderson said that a crosswind runway helps make it possible for very light type aircraft to make takeoffs and landings when the wind runs crosswise to the main runway. He noted that some pilots in older age end up flying certain light aircraft because of health restrictions.

The council on April 26 said it liked the part about Anderson’s proposal that it would not send traffic through the middle of the industrial park as the city’s long-proposed route for the 21st Avenue extension would do. The council decided to send Anderson’s route idea to Sherburne and Mille Lacs for comment and it brought the following responses:

Mille Lacs’ response

Mille Lacs County Public Works Director Bruce Cochran listed several objections, including the impact on wetlands along the west edge of the Highway 169 bypass that Anderson’s route would have.

Cochran also suggested that Anderson’s route could still pose a conflict with a future crosswind runway. But Cochran said his most serious concern was the cost that it would mean for Mille Lacs taxpayers. The county is already using its state aid for maintaining its present CSAH-designated roads, and to apply any of that state aid to more roadway would be counterproductive to maintaining what the county now has, Cochran explained.

It would “create an immediate drain on the local levy,” he said.

Cochran also noted that at least five agencies would have to approve running a road through a wetland. Conservation groups could comment and there would likely be an Environmental Assessment Worksheet needed that would cost about $50,000, Cochran added. If further study is needed, then there might even be a call for an Environmental Impact Statement, he said.

Sherburne County

Sherburne County Engineer Rhonda Lewis stated: “I do not see the benefit of Sherburne County being involved with this project because it appears that the main generators of traffic are outside of Sherburne County.”

Lewis also noted that Sherburne County Road 45 where Anderson’s route would go to “is not a state aid road and is classified as a minor collector. Therefore, obtaining federal monies is not possible because the functional classification of this roadway does not qualify for federal funds. Also, it is unlikely that state funds could be obtained for this project.”

Lewis said that Sherburne has already tried to get County Road 45 designated as a state aid highway but was turned down because of the road’s close vicinity to U.S. Highway 169.

Lewis’s fourth objection was: “Based on my knowledge of the area, it is likely that the alignment (Anderson was proposing) would require expensive soil corrections along with extensive wetland mitigation.”

Based on all of those reasons, Lewis said, “it is my opinion that this would not be an acceptable option to consider further. I believe that there are other alternatives that would be more cost efficient for the city to pursue.”

One of those alternatives was brought up by Cochran and that was to extend the south end of Rum River Drive where it ends near the industrial park, west to connect to Baldwin Township’s 136th Street. From there, drivers could go north to connect with Sherburne County Road 3 which would take them north to First Street, and eventually to Highway 95.

City consulting engineer Mike Nielson showed a map at the joint council-airport board meeting that had the Rum River Drive extension that Cochran talked about. It wouldn’t go straight as an arrow west to 136th Street, but would first arc to the south to help make possible any future extension of the airport’s 3,900 foot runway to 5,000 feet. That arc would go into an area now owned by Prairie Restorations.

The benefit of that route, Nielson said, is that drivers could avoid the heavy truck traffic inside the main industrial park.

Glenn Metalcraft owner Joe Glenn, who is a pilot and who attended Monday’s joint meeting, said he would not want to see much more traffic in the industrial park where his business is. If the traffic got so bad that he couldn’t use his two loading docks, then his Glenn Metalcraft buildings would be useless, he said.

The joint meeting discussion began with talking about Anderson’s proposed route for a 21st Avenue extension, and then delved into the ideas of extending the runway to 5,000 feet and also building a crosswind runway.

If the city adopted the route that Anderson proposed for extending 21st Avenue, according to engineer Nielson, it would cost “millions” more than the estimated $1.2 million price tag of the city’s proposed route.

The discussion also bore out the facts that filling in wetlands would require adding more wetland to replace what is lost and that the replacement wetland would have to be in the same general area, meaning not far from the airport.

As to whether the city could afford to help pay for building both a crosswind runway and an extension of the main runway, the consensus was to concentrate on the runway extension.

Council member Walker broke the ice on that one. “I may be going out on a limb,” he began, “but there is no way I will ever say yes to both (a runway extension and crosswind runway).”

He urged his fellow council members and airport advisory board members to “pick one and go with it,” meaning either a crosswind runway or a extending the main runway.