7/31/2014 10:39:00 AM South end business owners ask Schmit for help with MnDOT
by Ken Haggerty
A group of about a dozen business owners from the south end of Cannon Falls, already feeling the impacts from the new road, bridge and interchange construction and the resulting closure of familiar access points to their businesses along Hwy. 52, gathered on Tuesday to raise concerns and ask State Senator Matt Schmit for some assistance in getting MnDOT to address their concerns.
The businesses owners continue to ask that at the least, the right-turn, exit-only options be left in place temporarily until a safety study is completed (expected by October).
MnDOT is saying they plan to remove the lights at the northern intersection by the Saratoga and McDonald's in mid-August, closing the cross-over and all access to Hwy. 52 at that intersection.
The southern stoplights went out two weeks ago and that intersection has been fully closed as crews work to finish new on and off ramps. Dairy Queen revenue is off 40 percent since this closure, a representative said.
The business owners and City Council Member LeRoy McCusker, who was at the meeting, say similar allowances have been made in Hampton and Zumbrota when new construction along Hwy. 52 was done there and said they would like to be treated equitably.
Business owners also asked that some temporary orange and black signage, located well before the locations of the stoplights, alert motorists to the new configurations and new access routes to their businesses. As the plan stands, all traffic will have to exit at the new southern interchange and maneuver through roundabouts and new "backage" roads, not visible from Hwy. 52, to the existing businesses.
Gas, food and lodging business owners are offered the opportunity for permanent signage by MnDOT along the exits at around $1,500 per year.
The original plan called for an overpass only at the site of the northern stoplights, an element that many at the meeting say would help tie the whole project together. When funding for only a portion of the project was alloted, it was decided to move forward with the project and hope for an overpass at a later date, once mentioned as 2019, but recently said to be on "as deemed necessary" basis by MnDOT.
One business owner called the whole process and the slow response time by MnDOT an insult to taxpaying businesses. Deeply involved from the earliest planning stages, he called the project that is being built a "pig-in-the-poke" and a "megalopolis of a merry-go-round." He cautioned the city about accepting the turnover of the old County 24 from downtown to the new interchange, which he said will be a hazardous, underbuilt road asked to handle all the new traffic.
Also brought up to Schmit was the idea of leaving the frontage road in front of the Saratoga open to a connection with the current County 24. Plans call for a cul-de-sac turn around in front of the Saratoga.
Business owners who were annexed into the city, not at their request, say they feel like annexation and the whole design of this project have been made with Mayo and other future tenants farther south in mind, rather than existing, tax paying, employing businesses,
Also, brought up by the business owners to Schmit was having traffic slow down through the corridor, similar to how traffic slows down through Rochester.