No decision on 21st Avenue or alternative

How will traffic move from Baldwin Township, past the Princeton industrial park and into the Rivertown Crossing retail area?

That’s a question the Princeton City Council is working to answer.

A solution didn’t come at the May 9 meeting of the Princeton City Council but a thoughtful discussion ensued.

Councilman Thom Walker made a motion, seconded by Councilman Dick Dobson, to have city staff meet with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to see what the DNR might allow as the city considers an extension of 21st Avenue or an alternative north-south route on the far west side of Princeton.

In February, the council heard reports that a 21st Avenue extension might not gain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration because an extension would interfere with future plans for a crosswind runway at the Princeton Airport. Former Princeton Mayor Richard Anderson then presented to the council an alternative road plan.

Presently, 21st Avenue runs from Highway 95 to a short distance south of First Street.

Anderson’s proposal calls for a road extension to run south on a course just west of Highway 169 and hook up with a spot near the northeast side of the industrial park.

Because Anderson believed Mille Lacs and Sherburne counties could contribute to his alternative road plan, action at that February meeting was tabled to May 9 to give Anderson time to present his proposal to the counties.

Not only did Anderson and Dobson appear before the Mille Lacs and Sherburne county boards and state officials at the State Capitol in St. Paul, Anderson met with Congressman Rick Nolan. In a report to the council, Anderson detailed his trips to Milaca, Elk River, St. Paul and Mora, where he met with Nolan.

After an April 3 meeting in Elk River, the Sherburne County Board said Anderson’s proposed route was the safest and most desirable for providing a second access to the industrial park and providing Baldwin Township residents a route to Walmart and Rivertown Crossing. The board left Anderson with a message that his alternative route was worth pursuing, he stated.

Later that day, Anderson and Dobson went to St. Paul where they met with Sen. Dave Brown and Rep. Sondra Erickson.

Anderson stated in his report that both Brown and Erickson were supportive of the alternative route and suggested the federal funding for the project. They also said that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is interested in service road projects and could help in locating funding, Anderson stated.

The lawmakers then directed Anderson and Dobson to the proper DNR officials for which wetland mitigation could be later discussed.

Two weeks later, on April 16, Anderson and Dobson traveled to Milaca to have a similar discussion with the Mille Lacs County Board. Anderson stated that the board also told him the alternative road was worth pursuing.

Like with Sherburne County and Brown and Erickson, a concern was expressed over funding. Mille Lacs County officials said that connecting Sherburne County 45 with Mille Lacs County 39 would be a joint project between the two counties and the city, with the city taking the lead on the project.

On Thursday, May 2, Anderson met with Nolan at a public forum in Mora.

Anderson showed Nolan the alternative road plans. Anderson stated that Nolan was in agreement that preserving the potential for a crosswind runway was a good goal, as was bypassing the industrial park by means of the alternative road plan.

Nolan promised to review the plan and do what he could to help Princeton further the alternative plan, Anderson stated.

Council members said 21st Avenue will not be built this year.

They did agree to seek a meeting with the DNR to discuss what the state agency might allow if the alternative route along the fringe of Highway 169 were to be pursued. The meeting would also make clear what road options will not be allowed, making it more clear for the City Council to make a decision on the future north-south route on the west side of Princeton.