Princeton considering adding second roundabout

The city of Princeton is considering a cost-share project that would access state and federal money to build a second roundabout intersection in Princeton.
If financially feasible, it would be located at the intersection of Highway 95 and 21st Avenue, just north of the Rivertown Crossing development where a Walmart opened in February.
Consideration of a second roundabout in the city is helped by the fact that the city’s first roundabout has been successful, said city consulting engineer Mike Nielson. The first roundabout was completed in the fall of 2010 at the intersection of Highway 95 and Rum River Drive, where there had been a signal light intersection.
The Princeton City Council discussed the idea of a second roundabout during its monthly council study session on Thursday, June 6. It then passed a motion to confer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Mille Lacs County on project specifics. The highway is state owned and 21st Avenue is a county road.
Nielson noted that there is still $940,000 in federal funds that the state could match to build the roundabout. If the federal money is not used, it could become unavailable. The money is what remains in a federal grant of about $1.2 million that was partially used to connect 21st Avenue with Highway 95 several years ago.
Council members and Nielson have talked on an off about the likelihood of some controls being added where 21st Avenue meets Highway 95 as Rivertown Crossing is developed. Traffic has already picked up at the intersection since Walmart opened.
Nielson said a roundabout is less costly than constructing a signal light intersection at 21st Avenue and Highway 95. A signal intersection requires widening the Highway 95 bridge over Highway 169. That might be a selling point for getting government help to put in the roundabout, Nielson said.
Nielson, the council and city staff also looked at other road changes that could be made nearby in conjunction with installing a roundabout, or sometime after, depending on costs and availability of funds.
Council members said they are considering having 13th Avenue connected to Highway 95 and extended to the highway’s north side; 13th Avenue is east of the interchange of Highways 95 and 169.
If that is done, a frontage road could take traffic to and from the area that has Steinbrecher Painting, the Thompson Sales car business, Moose Lodge, Central Feed and a mini storage business.
The council is also envisioning closing off the connection between Highway 95 and West Branch Street and closing access to the ramp that now leads down to the businesses on the north side of Highway 95. Councilmember Vicky Hallin said she would like to see that ramp still be accessible by emergency services such as police and fire.
One more change the council discussed is a potential east-west frontage road north of Highway 95 and west of Highway 169 where some homes are located.
Nielson, commenting about the idea of extending 13th Avenue to Highway 95, said it could take some traffic congestion off Rum River Drive and remove some safety concerns near the interchange of Highways 95 and 169.
Nielson said that one of the main tasks he will be working on now is to research the costs of building the roundabout and making any of the other highway-related changes the council talked about Thursday.
Next year would be the earliest that a roundabout would be built at Highway 95 and 21st Avenue, according to Nielson.
Councilmember Thom Walker asked Nielson if committing to building the roundabout would mean committing to constructing the other discussed changes at the same time.
Nielson answered that, no, those other changes would not have to be done at the same time as the roundabout, but the planning for everything would have to be done at the same time.