City offers Collegeview Road options

March 20, 2019

A split Rochester City Council provided a potential compromise Monday on the planned reconstruction of a section of Collegeview Road.

However, two Olmsted County commissioners said it’s unlikely to be accepted.

“This would put us in a difficult role for future negotiations,” Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden said. Her statement was echoed by County Board Chairman Jim Bier.

At stake is the potential design for a half-mile section of Collegeview Road, from 19th Avenue Southeast to Silver Creek Road, which the county was planning to reconstruct using a mix of city, county and federal funds. County plans call for turning the section of road over to the city once the work is complete.

The county planned to maintain the four existing traffic lanes.

Several City Council members, however, favor a two-lane option, which they noted is more in line with the city’s newly adopted comprehensive plan, with a goal to promote transit options and design streets with pedestrian safety in mind.

County and city officials have met in recent weeks to discuss the differing opinions, which Kiscaden highlighted in a letter sent to elected officials during the weekend.

“We approach this design question with two different philosophies,” she wrote. “The county builds roads which meet state standards designed to move vehicles efficiently from one location to another. The city builds streets.”

With the two differing approaches, Council Member Nick Campion suggested a compromise is needed.

“You can’t be asking me to pay the full price to go against my strategic objectives,” Campion said during Monday’s City Council meeting.

The options presented were adopting the city’s two-lane proposal; keeping the four-lane plan, but reducing the anticipated city cost from $900,000 to $150,000; or doing nothing with the expectation that the county would maintain the road with an overlay.

Only the two-lane option would involve the city taking possession of the section of road.

While the project could remain a county project as planned, County Administrator Heidi Welsch said many details in the current plans, such as curb and gutter work, are included to meet standards for a city street, which would typically be done with financial support from the city.

Council Member Michael Wojcik said he doesn’t see the four-lane option as viable under the city’s plan for the stretch of road.

“This is kind of ripping out a section of our comprehensive plan,” he said of the four-lane option proposed by the county, noting the city would need to rethink goals for the proposed corridor if it remains four lanes.

On the county’s side, Bier said the proposed compromise comes at a high financial price.

“That’s $2.4 million that goes away,” he said, noting county commissioners are unlikely to agree to pay a portion of the city’s funding for the project, and the federal dollars cannot be obtained without a mutual agreement on splitting the cost.

Kiscaden said doing so could jeopardize future negotiations on similar projects in other communities.

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said Monday’s result was disappointing, noting the process moved too far along before city and county elected officials met to discuss their differences.

“In the future, we need to get ahead of the game, way ahead of the game,” she said.

Kiscaden agreed, but noted the City Council provided options to consider.

“We have some choices to make,” she said.

The county’s Physical Development Committee is slated to discuss the Collegeview Road project and the City Council’s decision today, but a county board decision was not on this afternoon’s agenda.