CROOKSTON, Minnesota – About 20 people came out to review proposed alternatives for US Freeway 2 through downtown Crookston at a Corridor Study Open House on Tuesday, May 24.
The City of Crookston and the Minnesota Department of Transportation are conducting the Corridor Study with SRF Consulting to assess current conditions and potential improvements on U.S. Highway 2 through downtown Crookston, a stretch of road that has proved to be dangerous for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
“It’s great to see the community come out and share their feedback and guide the process because, at the end of the day, they are the stakeholders in this city,” said Molly Stewart, project manager at SRF Consulting. “(The Minnesota Department of Transportation) is funding it, but they’re trying to come up with a solution that works for the broad masses, so we appreciate when there are people who come out and engage in the process.”
Residents of Crookston have called for changes to make the town center freeway section safer for pedestrians and cyclists, particularly at the corner of North Broadway and Roberts Street in downtown Crookston. The corner has been the site of several accidents involving pedestrians, most recently in October 2021, when a 10-year-old girl was hit by a tractor-trailer while riding her bicycle on the sidewalk. In 2018, former Crookston City Council member Bobby Baird was hit by a car at the intersection, and in 2008 Ramona Unke was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer.
In late October 2021, the MnDOT closed the right-turn lane from Roberts Street to North Broadway as a temporary way to make the sidewalk at the corner safer for pedestrians.
The Highway 2 Corridor Study initially focused on accessibility, as sidewalks in downtown Crookston were deemed inaccessible by the MnDOT ADA office. But it’s also an opportunity to address pedestrian safety concerns along Highway 2 and develop a long-term solution for downtown traffic that takes into account the needs of drivers, downtown pedestrians and businesses.
At the open house, community members viewed and discussed two potential alternatives for Highway 2, identified in the Corridor Study. The alternatives were created with input from community review committees, made up of 15-20 community members, including residents, business owners and elected officials. Community review committees have identified concerns along the corridor and priorities for improvement of the corridor.
Currently, Highway 2 through downtown Crookston splits into two one-way streets with three lanes each, with eastbound traffic using Main Street and westbound traffic using Broadway. There is on-street parking on either side of the street.
Variant A would keep Highway 2 running through Crookston town center as two one-way streets, but reduce the number of lanes on each street from three to two. This option maintains downtown parking, extends the sidewalks and adds a bike path to one side of the street.
Option B would move Highway 2 to be only on Main Street and convert Main Street and Broadway to two-way streets. As Highway 2, Main Street would remain under MnDOT jurisdiction, while Broadway would become the city’s responsibility. Main Street would have parking on one side of the street, while Broadway would have parking on both sides. Both streets would have extended sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street.
Brandon Carlson, director of public works, said either option would reduce the length of street crossings from 50 feet to 25 feet.
“The easiest way to make the street safer for pedestrians is to shorten the time they have to cross the street,” he said.
Attendees showed their preference for Alternative A with neon orange stickers on posters illustrating the alternative and the challenges and opportunities that come with the options. For option A, most people indicated that they strongly supported the option, while on the poster for option B, most people indicated that they opposed the option.
City Council member Wayne Melbye preferred Alternative A, saying it would be difficult for tractor-trailers on the freeway to navigate the sharp bend to a two-way street in downtown Crookston. He said Alternative B might be feasible if semi-traffic was eliminated from downtown.
“But that’s not going to happen,” he said. “They still have to bring materials to the hardware store and food to China Moon.”
But not everyone preferred Alternative A. Mayor Dale Stainbrook thinks Alternative B would suit the community better, as two-way traffic will have more of a traffic-calming effect.
He said that regardless of the decision, the corridor study was a good opportunity for community participation.
“Whatever the decision, A or B, will affect our downtown for the next 50 plus years,” Stainbrook said.
If Alternative A is chosen, work could begin on the project in 2025 or 2026. The timeline is less clear with Alternative B, as the MnDOT and the city would have to enter into contracts to return Broadway to city jurisdiction. .
Once the corridor study is complete, MnDOT and SRF Consulting will present their final recommendations to Crookston City Council, and the council will vote to move forward with a plan. Once a plan is approved, the MnDOT can begin planning and eventually begin construction in the downtown corridor.