Council to mull Kwik Trip frontage road

Published 6:00 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

A sign tells motorists that a Kwik Trip is coming soon; however, “soon” could mean 2013 or possibly 2014, depending on whether city and county leaders can resolve issues for Bridge Avenue. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea residents will have the chance to voice their opinions Monday about what has become a controversial issue for one business expanding in the city.

Despite engineer recommendations, the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners in September voted for a right-turn lane on Bridge Avenue that would be exclusively for a proposed Kwik Trip gas station. However, that lane would be moot if the city opts not to remove its frontage road between the Kwik Trip property and Bridge Avenue.

The Albert Lea City Council will have a public hearing about whether the city should vacate the frontage road that runs parallel to north Bridge Avenue. The road — between Sykes and Westron streets — needs to be vacated to make a right turn possible into a proposed $5 million Kwik Trip gas station.

A Mobil sign still stands at the corner of Bridge Avenue and Sykes Street in Albert Lea at a location Kwik Trip purchased in 2011. The city is mulling whether it should vacate a frontage road that parallels Bridge Avenue. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

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Kwik Trip officials announced plans to build a gas station at the site in October 2011, at that time with plans to open in 2012. However, plans slowed after the company requested a new access point into the property. The right turn lane would be on the south end of the property and would be used by semis coming off Interstate 90. Drivers would have to pass over the existing frontage road to reach the gas station parking lot.

According to officials, Kwik Trip 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 the utilities. The company is not asking that the utility easement be affected.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said both Vern Eide Chevrolet dealership and Kwik Trip have petitioned for the vacation of the roadway, but so far, city staff have not found any findings that support doing so.

Adams said statute requires a valid public purpose be demonstrated to warrant the vacation, but at this point it appears to be for private benefit.

First Ward Councilor John Schulte V said he would support the idea if the company’s traffic study showed that by doing so there would be a decrease in crashes at those access points. However, the company has not yet provided that, Schulte said.

Mayor Vern Rasmussen asked the council to put some thought into the decision, noting that a decision now could impact the road and potential costs there in the future.

Adams said the hearing could be continued to a future date if a determination cannot be made at the meeting.

The Freeborn County commissioners voted 3-2 in September in favor of adding the turn lane for Kwik Trip. The ones who were in favor said they wanted to accommodate Kwik Trip’s request.

Neither Freeborn County nor Albert Lea engineers were in favor of the right turn lane, citing concerns over traffic safety. A joint city-county committee recommended a stoplight at Sykes Avenue, which could have its own right turn lane

The new Kwik Trip would be the third in Albert Lea.

Kwik Trip purchased the three-acre property at 2611 Bridge Ave. for $1.5 million in October 2011 and at that time announced plans to build a new store. It is slated to have both unleaded and diesel gasoline pumps, along with a car wash, and between 20 and 30 new jobs are expected to be created.