Marshall Independent / Michael Lamb on Jan. 16, 2020
MARSHALL — It may take a “generation” in time, but Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes says the Highway 23 corridor may one day become a major route for freight traffic.
“This is the route that intersects Minnesota from the northeast to the southwest,” Byrnes said during his Highway 23 Coalition presentation for the Noon Rotary meeting at the Ramada Inn Tuesday. “Duluth is extremely interested because that’s a very active port and a lot of things go through there. Right now they want to get to the southwest.” He explained that trucks now follow a route that goes through the Twin Cities and down to Interstate 90. “It would be much shorter, save a lot time to utilize Highway 23. They are not utilizing Highway 23 because there are restrictions. It goes two lanes, four lanes, two lanes, four lanes all the way down and it slows them down,” he said.
Byrnes is now spearheading the coalition’s efforts to lobby for funds and support construction projects that will eventually make Highway 23 four lanes the entire route. Byrnes was named Highway 23 Coalition coordinator in December. “The addition of a coordinator and with over 100 members, we are committed to the advancement of the Coalition and to facilitate increased freight traffic, improve mobility and safety on the corridor,” said Highway 23 Coalition board Chairwoman Donna Boonstra in announcing Byrnes appointment. “Making Highway 23 a continuous four-lane highway will reduce congestion in the Twin Cities metro area and change the lives of so many residents and people traveling through our great state.”
From Duluth, Highway 23 goes through St. Cloud, Willmar, Granite Falls, Cottonwood, Marshall, Pipestone and intersects with Interstate 90 — a direct link to Sioux Falls. According to its website, the Highway 23 coalition boasts 64 dues-paying businesses, 14 cities, and 10 counties along the 300-mile route. There are four corridor projects that were identified in 2019 as priorities:
- Construction of a roundabout in the city of Foley at Highway 23 and Eighth Avenue and the undertaking of a preferred route safety study that would encompass Highway 23 from Foley to Milaca.
- Construction of a county state aid highways overpass that would connect to the new interchange Highway 23 and County Road 5 in Willmar. The bridge would tie into the new Wilmar Railroad Wye project with a direct connection to the city’s industrial park.
- Undertaking an intersection safety study at Highway 23 and Highway 7 in Clara City.
- Construction of a four-lane extension of Highway 23 north from the city of Marshall to the city of Green Valley, which is a distance of 4.5 miles. This project would continue the four-lane infrastructure on the Highway 23 Corridor and bring it closer to connecting with Highway 212.
In addition, Byrnes said the highway will be closed all summer long between Cottonwood and Granite Falls for resurfacing. All the projects will be a benefit to Marshall, according to Byrnes, because of the economic impact of increased freight traffic. While the freight will bypass several communities on the route, Byrnes said Marshall is a destination. “Of course, most of that is agriculture,” he said. “Meanwhile, Byrnes said the coalition will continue to promote projects that will improve the safety of the highway. “I hope incrementally we are going to chip away at it, but it may take a generation until this road is improved,” he said.