MAHTOMEDI — A study in early 2018 on the best option for a segment of Lake Links trail around White Bear Lake had this conclusion: The plan needed more study.

According to Ramsey County Senior Transportation Planner Joe Lux, the city, township and county could not agree on the best option for a trail along South Shore Boulevard. The road is owned by the county and runs through both municipalities. Options were narrowed to three possibilities: a one-way, a two-way or a combination of the two.

Lux is confident the follow-up study will result in agreement on what option to choose.

The project manager was invited by the Lake Links Association to give an update on the county's progress for a South Shore trail at its Dec. 10 meeting, held at the Mahtomedi District Center.

Other than the fact another study is planned, there wasn't a lot of progress to report.

Lux did talk about survey work by the county last fall to determine public right of way, which documents where the road is supposed to be.

There are 160 different parcels on South Shore Boulevard and survey crews found more than 150 markers, so that is good, Lux said. “It's pretty accurate. We were afraid it would be way off.”

The county plans to issue a request for proposals after the first of the year for the follow-up study to take the project through preliminary design. It will take six months.

If the road becomes a one-way street, there seems to be preference by residents for an easterly direction. The county doesn't care, Lux said.

Lake Links Co-Chair Steve Wolgamot said the advocacy group supports a one-way going east, as well.

If the road does become one-way, the county would like to turn it back to the city and township.

“It would be appropriate,” Lux pointed out. “County roads should be arterial and South Shore isn't one. It is a  collector street. Its function is not consistent with a county road.”

Asked when the road, described as “pothole central” by one resident, might be repaved, the earliest would be 2020, Lux replied.

“If we choose an option that does not require us to purchase any easements, we could construct in 2020,” Lux said. “If we choose one that requires acquisition, that will add at least a year to the project, potentially two, as reconstruction options would be more complicated. Realistically, if a reconstruction option is chosen, 2022 — or perhaps even 2023 — would be the likely year of construction.

“This ignores the fact our funding is incomplete for the reconstruction options, so we'd have to address that, too.”

The Legislature granted $2.6 million to fund the trail project. Asked if there was a deadline, Lux said it is his understanding that as long as the project is progressing, the county is meeting the requirements of the grant.

The senior planner added that the county chooses roads for repaving based on volume. Roads with higher volume get paved first. “We have roads with 20,000 to 30,000 cars a day on them. That is typical for a county road; compared to 3,600 for South Shore. So, we ignore them. That is why roads should be in the appropriate jurisdiction.”  

The public right of way is 66 feet on South Shore. That's a lot of right of way, noted Wolgamot. “We will use public right of way for a trail unless people offer us land, which has happened in a remarkable number of cases.”

One option being considered is full reconstruction of the road with two-way travel and a separate 10- to 12-foot trail. “That would be wonderful,” Lux admitted, “but very disruptive with large property impacts and very expensive.” He estimated a cost of $10 million for the option. That compares to $1.3 million for a one-way street with trail or $6.7 million for a combination of one-way and two-way, which also requires some property acquisition.

Open houses are planned early next year to once again gather input on design. “It's still not clear what people want,” Lux maintained.

“I told a couple people that a lot of my presentation here is 'we don't know yet,'” he said at the end of his presentation. “There's still a lot to figure out.”

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