County favors turn lane for Kwik TripPublished 1:00pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012
A proposed $5 million Kwik Trip gas station on Bridge Avenue passed a major hurdle Tuesday in front of the Freeborn County commissioners.
In what was a 3-2 vote, the commissioners voted to allow a right-turn lane into the south end of the property. The turn lane will be used by semis coming off Interstate 90.
“This helps us be able to move forward,” said Kwik Trip Real Estate Development Manager Wade Dumond.
The company had been waiting to begin construction until after it heard back about whether the lane was approved. The lane will be paid for by Kwik Trip.
One remaining hurdle, however, is whether the Albert Lea City Council will move forward with vacating the frontage road that runs parallel to Bridge Avenue at the east of the property. Truck traffic coming in through the new turning lane would cross over where the frontage road currently is into the parking lot for the gas station.
City Engineer Steven Jahnke said Kwik Trip actually owns the property that the frontage road sits on, but it was given to the city in an easement to put in the road and utilities. Kwik Trip has asked that the easement for the road be vacated.
Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the council will be discussing the issue at its Thursday workshop.
Dumond said he feels the city has been supportive of vacating the frontage road in the past so he still felt comfortable saying the company would be able to move forward with construction, likely in 2013.
The Tuesday action by the commissioners came with commissioners Dan Belshan, Mike Lee and Jim Nelson voting in favor of the turning lane and commissioners Glen Mathiason and Christopher Shoff voting against.
Mathiason said he thought the vote was premature because it is still unclear what impact the business will have on traffic.
“We have to look at what’s best for us long-term as well as trying to fit into your project also,” he said.
He also talked about concerns with granting the access and then finding out later that the road would need to be reconfigured.
Shoff reiterated the recommendations made by a joint city-county committee last week against the turn lane, citing concerns for the corridor and of setting a precedence for other businesses along the route. This is the first time a new access point has been granted on the street since 1989.
He also talked about concerns for safety on the road.
Lee said he has received dozens of calls about the issue, all of which were in favor of the turning lane.
“I want to listen to what people have to say,” he said.
Belshan, who has been a vocal supporter of the turning lane, said he wanted to do everything possible to help development.
He showed a population chart of Albert Lea that showed decreasing populations since the 1980s.