by Joni Astrup
Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, has introduced a bill in the Minnesota Senate seeking $10 million to upgrade the Highway 10-169-101 interchange in Elk River.
Under the proposal the stop light at the top of the interchange would be eliminated and the last two lobes of the cloverleaf would be constructed. In addition, the exit ramp for southbound Highway 169 traffic seeking to go west on Highway 10 would be modified.
Kiffmeyer discussed the bill during a town hall meeting on transportation that she hosted Tuesday at the Elk River Library.
Kiffmeyer said having an actual bill provides an opportunity to work to have a legislative hearing on the matter.
“Even if we don’t get a hearing before deadline, just getting a hearing is one of our goals with this bill,” she said.
Having a legislative hearing brings the issue to the attention of lawmakers and other key players like Minnesota Department of Transportation officials. Kiffmeyer, who serves on the Senate’s transportation committee, said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle has a staff person at the committee hearings who reports back.
“I have learned in the Legislature, calling attention to your needs is a good thing,” she said.
In another transportation-related issue, Kiffmeyer and others are waiting to hear if a grant is approved that would fund improvements designed to help alleviate congestion on highways in Elk River.
An innovation grant of about $200,000 is being sought.
The grant would fund an adaptive traffic control system that enables traffic signals to adapt to actual traffic demand.
The grant would cover the system at signal lights at Highway 10 and Main, Jackson, Proctor and Upland in the greater downtown Elk River area, Kiffmeyer said. It also could possibly fund similar work at signals on Highway 169 in Elk River.
She said it would help keep traffic moving and ease gridlock in situations such as when trains are traveling through downtown.
Kiffmeyer said it is being used elsewhere but hasn’t been used in Minnesota. Elk River City Engineer Justin Femrite brought it to her attention. Sherburne County Engineer Rhonda Lewis, Sherburne County Public Works Director John Menter, MnDOT officials and others have also been involved.
Kiffmeyer said it gets at the question of instead of building roads, can existing roads be managed better?
“We don’t know for sure, but it’s had a great success in some other places,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kiffmeyer said Sherburne County Commissioner Bruce Anderson of Elk River has been working effectively with area counties to build a coalition to lobby and work together — area cities, counties and MnDOT — to improve transportation in the area.
Anderson, who was at the meeting, said he appreciates all the work that everyone has done.
“These are not easy issues and everybody has their story about why they need to have funding,” Anderson said.
Better movement of traffic in the Elk River area is important for many reasons, including to allow emergency vehicles to get to their destinations quickly, said Anderson, who is a former Sherburne County sheriff.
“We all know that seconds are important,” he said.