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Traffic amendment back to drawing board (09/26/2012)
By Emily Buss

The Winona City Planning Department’s proposed traffic impact amendment to city ordinance was sent back to the drawing board Monday after planning commissioners, citizens, and industry personnel expressed concern about the language.

The proposed amendment would have required any future applicant for an operation that has the potential to generate a great deal of truck traffic, not limited to frac sand, to complete a traffic generation study. The study would assess whether or not the designated haul routes would be sufficient for any anticipated increase in truck traffic. The draft amendment required any new operation that generates 200 or more new heavy vehicle trips per day to conduct a traffic impact analysis (TIA).

A road use agreement would also be required if the new operation were to exceed the 200-truck threshold or if any other deficiencies were discovered. The proposed agreement would then require the operation to rectify the issues prior to commencing operations. The operation would be responsible for the cost of upgrading pavement and culverts.

Local industry owner Rich Mikrut took issue with the fact that operators might be responsible for upgrading roads designed to handle a high volume of truck traffic, and said if the ordinance is not crafted carefully, businesses could be negatively affected.

“I hope you understand that we’re not trying to nitpick you here but if you’re not careful, this [draft ordinance amendment] could put a sign out front that says Winona is closed for business,” Mikrut said. “I can see if you are running a truck on a designated residential street then yes, the operator should be responsible. But I think if you are making operators responsible for cumulative effects on truck routes you are opening a dangerous doorway.”

Commissioner Gromek agreed, and said he didn’t think it was fair to charge the business to use roads designed to withstand truck traffic.

Winona resident Marie Kovecsi suggested the city adopt an ordinance similar to that of Winona County, which requires all new applicants to conduct a TIA, regardless of how much traffic the operation expects to produce.

“I do have concern for all these trucks on our roads, and I’ve spoken to this before,” Kovecsi said. “For example, the Nisbit mine that was approved in Saratoga Township is proposing to produce 280 trucks with just that one mine. Right there you have already exceeded your limit with the trucks coming from the west.”

The proposed ordinance amendment was drafted to be similar to Rochester’s recently passed trucking ordinance, but Commission Chair Craig Porter said it wasn’t relevant to Winona's situation.

“Rochester, bless their hearts, is just like other metros,” Porter said. “Rochester has the room, so their trucking business has moved to the outer rim of the city. Winona is unlike other cities in the fact that we truck to the Port. Our trucks have to get to the river and in order to do that we have to move past people.”

Porter asked Winona City Planner Mark Moeller to research other cities with a situation similar to that of Winona, and take a closer look at the proposed amendment’s language.

Commissioners will take another look at the draft at their upcoming meeting on October 8.  


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