Turn lane proposed at new school

A portion of the Mille Lacs County Board workshop April 19 covered a city of Princeton plan to install a right-turn lane into the new primary school from the northbound side of Seventh Avenue North, also known as County Road 4.
Princeton’s city engineer with WSB, Jeff Row, Public Works Director Bob Gerold and County Engineer Bruce Cochran attended the meeting to explain the project, along with a letter from Princeton City Administrator Mark Karnowski. Since the roadway is shared with the county, the city must obtain the county’s OK for the project.
The group made clear that Princeton is not asking for money from the county, only its approval of the project plan. They recommended making the turn lane part of a Seventh Avenue North sewer and water project now being finished.
Row said that although a northbound turn lane into the new and existing elementary schools was not part of the original plan, discussions with police, public works and others had led to the decision that one is needed. Row said the existing shoulder is only 6 feet wide and would be expanded to accommodate the lane, so crews will be building up a road base for it.
Commissioner Genny Reynolds said the driveway in and out of the schools is already tight and asked if that would be widened. She said there isn’t much room when one car is turning in and another car is trying to come out and turn south. Row said, yes, the entrance would be widened in the process of adding the turn lane.
Once completed, the turn lane would route traffic to wind around and pick up kids and then leave the same way. It is likely that the non-bus access point to the schools off 12th Avenue will be closed.
The count of cars in that location will increase by about 125 next year, as determined by traffic counts at South Elementary this year. There had been a traffic study before the new school project, but the parking lot entrances had been configured differently. Concerns have since arisen about traffic congestion and routing.
The meeting members speculated that city, school or some combination of their funds would pay for the project, but the subject had not yet been broached. The group acknowledged it was looking at the big picture of traffic and trying to find a way to separate the vehicles at the middle school and two elementary schools.
Commissioners asked questions about the school district’s plan. Discussion included the fact that Princeton Schools should be looking at an overall traffic master plan for the city, especially since all the traffic routes down Rum River Drive.
Karnowski’s letter said the city had worked with the school district on an in-site traffic plan. Cochran said the school district should “come to the table” on the issue, since it is the entity generating the additional traffic demand. He said it’s not much different than when a developer pays for roads because their housing development generates additional traffic.