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Cloquet Avenue is getting a facelift

Cloquet parks have gotten lots of love since residents passed a half-cent sales tax in 2012. Now it appears Cloquet Avenue will be getting some attention, too.

City Engineer Caleb Peterson told City Councilors the time is now for upgrades to the 20-year-old pavement, otherwise the street could require more expensive repairs if work is delayed much longer.

The two-mile long project — from Highway 33 to the city's easterly boundary with Scanlon — is expected to cost $2.97 million. Because the project is being funded as part of the city's local option sales tax, there will be no special assessment to adjacent property owners for the work. City officials have applied for a $1 million grant from the state, however, hoping to get enough funds to pay for replacing the light fixtures along the street. Currently the city has $2 million budgeted for the project.

According to the staff report, plans for the city's main thoroughfare include milling the pavement to a depth of 2 inches and repaving, similar to other downtown streets last summer.

The city isn't only fixing the surface of the street, however. They are also updating the layout of the street to reflect modern safety standards and use of the street by bicyclists and pedestrians as well as motor vehicles. For pedestrians downtown, the city will add "bulbouts" at the intersections of Cloquet Avenue and Ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th streets.

Assistant City Engineer John Anderson explained that bulbouts — which extend the sidewalk corners out further into the roadway — will decrease the pedestrian crossing distance from 69 to 49 feet, plus give pedestrians and drivers better visibility. As well, bulbouts prevent people from parking too close to the corners and have proven "traffic calming" benefits to reduce speed. The city will also add a curbed median in the middle of the street at the intersection with Eighth and Ninth streets so pedestrians have a place to stop in the middle if necessary. There's a painted median there now.

Designated bike lanes in each direction going the length of Cloquet Avenue are included in the plans.

Other improvements include replacing outdated pedestrian ramps and renewing streetscaping elements, as many of the trees planted 20 years ago have died or aren't thriving.

The plan isn't a one-size-fits-all solution either. Different sections of the street will have different layouts similar to what exists now.

"None of the lane layouts are changing drastically, they're just getting shrunk to make room for the bike lanes," said Anderson, adding that narrower lanes also help slow traffic.

The traffic lights at the intersection of Cloquet Avenue with 14th Street will be changed to LED lights and made more pedestrian/handicapped friendly with the addition of countdown times, crossing buttons and better curb cuts. Emergency responders will also be able to change the traffic light to allow their vehicles to get through the intersection.

Anderson said there's a chance the 10th Street traffic light won't be approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, because it doesn't have a high enough traffic count to meet current requirements. It is included in the plan, however.

During the signal work, there may be periods of time when the city puts up four-way stops.

Work is expected to begin in the spring of 2018, but the road will be open for traffic throughout the course of construction.

"We won't close Cloquet Avenue, traffic will be continuous throughout the project both ways as most of the work will be along the the curb line," Peterson said. "MnDOT will be working on the roundabout (at the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 33) at the same time, so it's important we keep it open."

Cloquet city officials will hold an informal neighborhood meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Cloquet City Hall regarding the proposed improvements planned for Cloquet Avenue in 2018. All residents and property owners wishing to discuss the project are invited to attend.

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Breakout: You're Invited

The city of Cloquet is holding two important public meetings next week.

The first is the Truth and Taxation hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, regarding the city's 2018 budget and tax levy payable in 2018. This is a public hearing and is being held as part of the City Council's normal meeting.

Cloquet city officials will also hold an informal neighborhood meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Cloquet City Hall regarding the proposed improvements planned for Cloquet Avenue in 2018. All residents and property owners wishing to discuss the project are invited to attend.

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