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County, state eye roundabout on Irvine Avenue near Highway 71 bridge

The county Highway Department and the Minnesota Department of Transportation has proposed a roundabout that would be at the off ramps on the south end of the bridge over U.S. Highway 71 on Irvine Avenue.

BEMIDJI -- The safety benefits of roundabouts has county and state officials discussing adding yet another of the traffic control structures in the county.

During a Beltrami County Board work session Tuesday, commissioners were given a presentation by the county Highway Department and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on a proposed roundabout that would be at the off ramps on the south end of the bridge over U.S. Highway 71 on Irvine Avenue.

The idea for the roundabout originated from both agencies having future work near the area. The county has a resurfacing project planned for Irvine Avenue, from 30th Street to Town Hall Road in 2019. MnDOT, meanwhile, has a resurfacing project planned for Highway 71, from state Highway 197 to Glidden Road in its five-year plan.

According to Beltrami County Engineer Bruce Hasbargen, the total cost of a roundabout project is $1.5 million and the amount would be split in a cost share with the state. In a cost share, MnDOT would cover the majority, with the county responsible for about $300,000.

The county would also be responsible for handling the design and construction inspection, while MnDOT would handle right of way and traffic studies as well as preliminary surveying.

“There’s a safety issue that’s there right now, those that use the off ramp can’t see very far north because the bridge is on a crest,” Hasbargen said Tuesday. “There is a crash history there, so putting a roundabout there helps alleviate that. It especially helps reduce the amount of ‘T-bone’ crashes.”

The Bemidji area’s first roundabout on a roadway opened in October at the intersection of Division Street and Jefferson Avenue, the first of four scheduled Division Street, also for safety reasons. Roundabouts also exist in the Sanford Center parking lot.

No action was required by commissioners Tuesday, as Hasbargen was only looking for a consensus to proceed, which was given. A cooperative agreement still needs to be drafted and come before the board for approval.

Also at Tuesday meeting, the board set a public hearing in regard to changes in the county’s 911 ordinance. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp is recommending language changes to the ordinance, including several rewrites and reviews that have been done with the help of the county’s Geographical Information System Department and County Administrator Kay Mack.

According to Hodapp, the changes involve altering wording to allow a special assessment fund to provide maintenance and upgrades to the entire emergency communications infrastructure. The previous ordinance, Hodapp said, limited the department’s ability to only use the fund on towers, repeaters and equipment in the 911 center, excluding other types of technology.

The public hearing will take place during the board’s next meeting March 6.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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