Road construction is key to safe access to new facility
Three main projects are being planned to create the best routes to health care.
WADENA — Creating the rural health care center of the future is no small feat. Creating easy, safe and attractive access to that facility is a whole other animal.
It’s one of the keys to making the new Tri-County Health Care (Astera) facility successful and it has so far required extensive collaboration with the city of Wadena, Wadena and Otter Tail counties and the state related to transportation infrastructure over the last few years.
The changes coming for U.S. Hwy 10, 11th Street/CSAH 92 and Greenwood Avenue are due to the fact that this will no longer just be a residential roadway and access to the county landfill. It’s expected that vehicle counts are going to increase immensely as this becomes the main access to this region’s health care needs. It will be a path for ambulances to speed their victims to the care they need, for patients to receive care, for visitors to check in on loved ones and for several hundred staff members to do their jobs.
To bring these changes has so far involved city streets becoming county state aid highways and involves teamwork, something Wadena County Highway Engineer Darin Fellbaum said has been on full display.
Tri-County Health Care President and CEO Joel Beiswenger took some time to explain what’s to be expected with changes over the next two road construction seasons and beyond as the completed building project is now just 10 months away.
Yes there are changes needed to better fit this new use of the property, but it’s worth the trouble Beiswenger explains as they are getting the Hwy 10 exposure that they had hoped for.
“It was a priority, that’s why it’s placed the way it is,” Beiswenger said.
Work in 2022-2023
First work led by Wadena County and MnDOT on Hwy 10 will take place at the intersection of Hwy 10 and 11th Street/County Rd. 92. This is a realignment project and could include lane and shoulder closures this summer.
The entry onto 11th Street is being realigned so that these roads are perpendicular to each other. This is a safety change to avoid an angled approach.
“We’re going to improve that tie in point so it is perpendicular. So people can get their best sight distance east or west,” Wadena County Highway Engineer Darin Fellbaum said.
Tri-County Health Care also purchased a portion of property on the east side of 11th Street in order to open up some of this area, including tree clearing, to create better visibility for those entering Hwy 10.
Another concern at this location is that it’s currently a 60 mph zone on Hwy 10, hardly the speeds hospital leaders want to see as this will be a spot where many motorists need to cross over lanes of traffic to reach the facility. Beiswenger said it’s been made clear to MnDOT that the desire is to see this zone lowered more to the point of where speed is decreased to 40 mph near Wadena Hide and Fur.
“We certainly have already expressed to MnDOT our desires,” Beiswenger said.”We believe a lower speed limit is more appropriate.”
Whether that desire will be accepted by MnDOT remains to be seen. The next hospital down the road, Lakewood Health System in Staples also has Hwy 10 access and remains in a 65 mph zone.
This $550,000 intersection project is partially funded with $350,000 appropriated through the TED (Transportation Economic Development) and remaining costs would be paid for by Tri-County Health Care.
Fellbaum has been working with engineer firm Bolton and Menk to also have the 11th Street and Greenwood Avenue areas ready for takeoff during this spring, summer and fall. They are involved in all three of the projects that will be taking place over the next two years.
“We’re hoping to bid in early summer,” Fellbaum said of these projects. He said they want to see the TH 10 project complete in 2022, while the other two will have significant completion.
Heading north on 11th Street you’re now on CSAH 92, it’s a stretch of state aid highway recently designated as such in order to allow the county to seek state funding in improving the roadway. That extends east down Greenwood Ave., which will change from a gravel road to tarred. But it’s not just getting a stronger surface with less dust for the neighborhood, it’s expected to be straightened out to avoid the significant curves that are present now. That’s a safety improvement for the expectation that ambulances or other emergency vehicles will be traveling this route. New utilities are also to be installed along this improved path. And to top it off, plans are in place to include a bike/walking path along the road headed straight for the new hospital.
To add to the fun is the planned increase to four-lanes for all of Hwy 10 that is now two lanes to the east and west of Wadena. This section in front of the hospital is currently two lanes. The four lane change will of course add two lanes here along with turn lanes. Unfortunately, this project is likely to occur in 2025, beyond the opening of the new health center, according to current projections by MnDOT.
In April 2021, MnDOT District 3 received $5 million of Project Development Bond Funds for the Highway 10 gap project from the bonding package passed in fall 2020. An additional $30 million of Trunk Highway Bond Funds was appropriated for the project in June 2021 as part of the 2021 Omnibus Transportation Bill.
It’s estimated to cost $40-60 million to complete this project, meaning there is a need for further federal funding to make this happen. It’s currently being designed, according to MnDOT, with considerations that the public is eager to see this completed soon.
Entering the building
Upon turning east along the first intersection from Hwy 10, there will be two entrances for patients and guests. Both are located on the south side (Hwy 10 side) of the building. The west entrance will be considered the main daytime entrance for the clinics and many other hospital services. That entrance will be open and staffed during the day, with definitive hours to be determined. The east entrance, which is located by the emergency department and ReadyCare, will be a 24-hour entrance and how you access those services. This is also where you enter if you want to visit an inpatient.
A future access road is also part of this concept which would continue easterly along Hwy 10 and be one path towards future development surrounding TCHC’s new building.
“That’s a concept design put together a few years ago,” Beiswenger said. What that will actually look like and what developments may follow are undisclosed at this time.
Continuing up 11th Street, there is another access point to the hospital for emergency vehicles, which is in line with Elm Avenue. Much like the access before it, this will be wide enough for turn lanes to allow smooth flow of traffic.The third and final access to the facility is at Greenwood Ave. At that intersection, staff will be able to access the northside of the building.
Beiswenger said the end goal is to offer some separation between those three groups of travelers, while being intuitive and safe for all drivers.
For all the work that must still be done on the new health care center and the many bridges to cross to complete road projects, Beiswenger is not concerned about continuing access to the facility, even if some work remains.
“Overall things are going well,” Beiswenger said.
Even if they are not fully realized, he’s confident that the public will have full access to the facility when the doors come swinging open.
- 125,900 square-foot facility = $72 million
- Conversion of Hwy 10 from two to four lanes = $40-60 million
- Greenwood Avenue (Second Street to 11th Street) = $1.7 million to be funded through state aid
- 11th Street (Greenwood to TH 10) = $1.3 million to be funded through a legislative bond
- Realignment of CSAH 92 with Hwy 10 = $550,000 with $350,000 coming from TED funds, and the remainder from TCHC.