Commerce Drive map

NORTH MANKATO — The North Mankato City Council is moving forward with a $2.8 million Commerce Drive renovation project.

The council will hold a public hearing on the project during a Nov. 19 meeting. Council members reviewed renovation details during a public meeting Monday night.

The street reconstruction project will redo 4,800 square feet of road between Lookout and Lor Ray drives, along with water and sewer work, trail access, reconfigured street access for some businesses and more lighting, among other fixes.

"We're really taking a look at one of our busiest streets and giving it an improvement," City Administrator John Harrenstein said.

Workers are scheduled to begin next June and construction will run through 2020.

City officials say they will work to improve traffic flow on the eastern side of Commerce Drive. They noted 15 accidents occurred from 2011 to 2015 on Commerce Drive, mostly on the eastern side. Several took place close to Walgreens near the intersection of Lor Ray and Commerce drives. None of the accidents involved serious injuries; most involved damage to vehicles.

City officials are looking to close some of the street accesses to businesses to reduce traffic and increase safety. City Engineer Dan Sarff said some businesses with multiple access points from Lookout Drive appear open to closing at least one access, but other businesses are staunchly against removing an entry or exit.

Sarff recommended the city not force the issue with businesses opposed to closing accesses but could address accessways if some businesses sell their property in the future.

North Mankato will expand the sidewalk from 4 to 6 feet on the northern side of Commerce Drive while an 8-foot multi-use trail will be put in along the southern side.

The city has received $1.9 million in state and federal grants as part of the project. The remaining amount will be made up of city funding, municipal state aid and potential business assessments. Council members have allocated $500,000 toward Commerce Drive as part of its 2019 budget.

City staff are still preparing a list of properties that could be assessed for the project, which they'll likely share as part of the Nov. 19 open meeting.

North Mankato officials have worked on a related Commerce Drive master plan for more than a year.

That plan, currently in a draft form, calls for more beautification along the corridor as well as mixed-use housing.

City officials will hold open houses on the master plan later this month and in December, no dates have been set.