ST. CLOUD – Planning agencies are resurrecting a decades-old plan to implement a highway system around the St. Cloud metro and construct a new bridge crossing the Mississippi River on the south side of town.
The proposed beltline and bridge would help improve mobility and reduce congestion, according to Brian Gibson, executive director of the St. Cloud Area Planning Organization.
"Right now, to get anywhere, all the roads kind of lead to the urban core," he said.
"You've got to go through to get to anywhere else."
The proposed beltline would make use of roads west of Waite Park, north through Sartell, east of St. Cloud and Hwy. 10 and south along S. 33rd Street.
The new bridge crossing the Mississippi River is proposed to extend east from S. 33rd Street and connect with Hwy. 10 on the east side of the river.
A public comment period on the bridge planning study is open through Friday.
The study examines the corridor on the west side of the river, which is mostly commercial and industrial, and the east side of the river, which is mostly agricultural and part of an orderly annexation agreement with the city.
While the proposed beltline would widen existing roads, no clear corridor exists on the east side of the river, according to Matt Glaesman, community development director for St. Cloud.
The study will determine the preferred corridor so the city can preserve the land and update zoning maps so developers can plan accordingly.
The St. Cloud metro has six bridges crossing the Mississippi River: three north of St. Cloud in Sartell or Sauk Rapids, two in downtown St. Cloud and one near St. Cloud State University.
The next bridge crossing is 15 miles south in Clearwater.
A regional transportation model projects that by 2045 the total traffic in the region will increase by more than 50% and all six St. Cloud-area bridges will be over capacity.
The proposed bridge is estimated to remove about 35,000 average daily trips from the six metro bridges, as well as provide a more convenient way to travel east-west on the south side of town.
"We already see traffic volumes over 30,000 trips per day on Division Street and through all of our community planning efforts and community surveys, [we] always hear about traffic congestion as a major concern," Glaesman said.
"One of the best ways to alleviate traffic congestion on that road is to create a parallel roadway for those trips that would not necessarily have to go into the urban core."
Construction will be completed this year on a project to widen S. 33rd Street from a two-lane road with no shoulder to a four-lane road divided by a median.
The road improvements follow growth on the south side, including several residential developments and the newly built Tech High School.
"I think people are really starting to get a sense of what that corridor looks like," Glaesman said.
Once the bridge planning study is completed and a preferred alignment is selected, the city will need to conduct an environmental review, which could take three years to complete, according to Glaesman.
Gibson estimates the bridge likely will cost upward of $80 million and will require federal funding.
The beltline will likely be completed in segments due to its cost and because it covers several jurisdictions.
The study and public survey can be found at arcg.is/Xr1eb1.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299