South 6th at noon on July 5, 2014.

South 6th at noon on July 5, 2014.

Those of you connected with me personally on social media (Twitter/Facebook) are familiar with the struggle here in Brainerd, Minnesota, over our local stroad through town. South 6th Street was once our grand boulevard, then the highway through town and, after the bypass was built, has become a wasteland of declining property values, failing businesses and dangerous traffic.

The state still owns the road -- a compromise of a different era -- and is now looking to reconstruct it. The DOT put a reconstruction of five lanes on the table along with the potential for three. Along with some local friends, I put forward a Strong Towns design that would be two lanes. A healthy local debate has ensued.

This morning reports of some progress with MnDOT indicating that they think it should be three lanes. Here's the exchange that tells me our message is sinking in.

"If the council would have went five lanes, what was your plan then?" [Council President Gary] Scheeler asked.

"I would ask that the city increase their contribution to the project if they wanted to go five lanes," {MnDOT engineer Jim] Hallgren responded. "As a steward of the taxpayer money, I cannot justify $2 million in additional cost where the need is not evident."


Of course, we still have a massive stroad design problem here, as evidenced in the following:

Hallgren said MnDOT is proposing the maximum standard of 12-foot driving lanes, which would actually widen the lanes compared to the current width. The three-lane option would maintain two left-turn lanes from South Sixth Street to Highway 210, along with a northbound through lane and a right-turn lane. Plans call for some additional right-of-way to be purchased at this intersection to accommodate the wide angle turning of semi-trailers.

Yet, even that sounds more sane than what some of the local officials would like to see. Talk of congestion and being "business-friendly" make many of us think some of the people we have elected live in a different city. Nonetheless, this is a move in the right direction and help us focus the conversation on a 3-lane highway versus a 2-lane street.

"That's the conclusion that we're coming to at this point," Hallgren said. "We're under more and more pressure to go on a road diet instead of developing a sea of pavement that is problematic."

Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to fight the DOT anymore?