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Intersections could be costly

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A three-quarter intersection at the corner of County Road 50 and Flagstaff Avenue may be the cheapest alternative, but it has not received many favorable comments from residents. And Tom Severson of Marschall Bus Lines calls the suggestion "impossible" for busing.

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Building a full intersection, though, will be costly -- most likely more than $1 million. And next week, when the Farmington City Council and School District 192 Board of Education meet with representatives of Dakota County, they will find out just how much it could be.

In recent months, school district, city and county officials have met to discuss four intersections -- 195th Street and Akin Road, 195th Street and Pilot Knob Road, 195th Street and Flagstaff Avenue and Flagstaff Avenue and County Road 50 -- that will be impacted by the opening of Farmington's new high school next year.

In early November, they were presented with several options for each intersection. Flagstaff Avenue and Co. Road 50 will cost the most to build, particularly because of an Xcel Energy power line in the right of way on the northeast corner of the intersection. Moving that power line getting right of way access will likely cost thousands of dollars before the actual construction actually begins.

One of the options presented for Co. Road 50 and Flagstaff Avenue was a three-quarter intersection. Under that plan drivers on Co. Rd. 50 would be able to turn north on Flagstaff but southbound drivers on Flagstaff Avenue would only be able to turn right and head west onto Co. Rd. 50. Drivers would have to make a U-turn if they wanted to go east.

While the option would be the least expensive, it was the one that generated the most comment during a recent open house hosted by the city and county to get feedback from residents.

Of the 40 or so residents who attended last month's open house, most of them addressed the Co. Road 50 and Flagstaff Avenue intersection.

"You wouldn't be able to go east or south (across Co. Rd. 50), and that was what most of the comments were about," Farmington city engineer Kevin Schorzman said.

Severson was in attendance that night, and offered Schorzman another perspective -- getting buses to and from the high school.

Of the 15 buses that will transport students, 10 of them will be directed northbound on Flagstaff Avenue, heading to the 195th Street/Flagstaff Avenue intersection to take students home to the midsection part of the community or into the section of Lakeville that lies within the School District 192 attendance boundary.

But getting those remaining five buses dispersed to the downtown area and the rural area -- Castle Rock, parts of Eureka and Empire townships -- could get tricky.

"A three-quarter intersection would be dangerous," Severson said. "I just can't do a U-turn in a 40-foot school bus."

The remaining five buses could be directed northbound and go around 195th Street to Pilot Knob Road and then head south to Co. Road 50, but doing so would add to the congestion at that intersection, particularly after school, and it would mean extra miles and extra minutes.

"Time and miles means money in our world, so it's a direct cost to the school district as well," Severson said. "It's our hope that some of the plans will allow the school buses to go east on Co. Road 50."

After the last joint workshop, city and school officials asked for cost estimates for the four intersections. Those estimates will be provided at next week's workshop. From there, the elected officials will have to determine which traffic control option they would like at each intersection.

One of the considerations for the intersection of Flagstaff Avenue and 195th Street is whether to make it a roundabout, a traffic signal-controlled intersection or to build additional turn lanes. All will help, but the costs for those alternatives range, as well.

"We will bring back the cost information the city council and school board requested for those four intersections," Schorzman said. "From my perspective, it's then in the realm of the school district and council to take that information and give us some direction on what the next steps are from there."

The joint workshop will begin at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 in council chambers at Farmington City Hall. Residents are welcome to attend.

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