This article from the Lakes Area Review discusses the County's approval of a resolution in favor of the Corridors of Commerce application. It was published November 5th, 2022 by Staff Writer Ralph Dickerson.
County approves resolution for Hwy. 23 expansion
The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution to extend the four-lane section of Highway 23 in Willmar to County Road 5. The resolution was brought before the commissioners during their Nov. 1 meeting by Jeff Bertram, chair of the Highway 23 Coalition. The Coalition plans to apply for funds from the state's Corridors of Commerce grant program for the project.
"The conversion of Highway 23 to a four-lane highway will allow for safer and faster movement of goods and services, and support economic competitiveness in the region," Bertram said. "We have been working for quite some time on creating a four lane safe Highway 23 corridor from border to border."
This particular project consists of a 2.5 mile extension of the current four lanes. According to Commissioner Rodger Imdieke, many years ago the state actually built a roadbed for this extension, but never finished it by adding pavement to the grade work.
"We would like to see the grading touched up and bituminous put down to complete that section over to where the ramps will be put in next year," Imdieke said.
Currently no on-ramp connects Highway 23 to this road, which connects to the county's industrial park located nearby. The ramp connects the two roads, and extending the four lane to this area allows for a safer route for heavy traffic into and out of the industrial park.
"For heavy commercial traffic it would be a major connection or node point to the interregional corridor, which is Highway 23 to our industrial park," Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Mel Odens said. "Industrial park traffic connects right there at Highway 23, and having a divided grade separation road is more of what one would expect coming out of an indsutrial park or heavy industrial area."
The Highway 23 Coalition, composed of various county and city governments, organizationas and businesses, want to four-lane the entirety of Highway 23 to provide a safer, faster route from Sioux Falls, SD to Duluth, MN. Highway 23 starts in the southwest corner of Minnesota at I-90, and stretches almost 344 miles to I-35 in Duluth, a major shipping center in Minnesota. Most of the highway remains a two lane road, but four lane sections do exist.
Recently the state started what is called the North an South Gap projects on Highway 23. These two projects stretch a total of 16 miles, and extend the Highway 23 four lane from New London to Paynesville, and from Paynesville to Richmond. When these projects finish, projected to complete in 2024, a continuous stretch of four lane highway connects Willmar to I-94 near St. Cloud.
Currently, traffic wanting to go from Duluth to Sioux Falls needs to travel down I-35, through Minneapolis/St. Paul, to I-90, then go west to Sioux Falls. This particular route stretches over 330 miles. A completely four lane Highway 23 not only provides a shorter route, under 280 miles, it also helps relieve traffic congestion in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area by taking this traffic out of the cities. Not having to go through the cities allows this traffic to move faster and quicker between Duluth and Sioux Falls. In addition, being on this major commerce corridor helps open up the area to future economic development.
"We really appreciate your leadership," board chair Corky Berg told Bertram. "This relationship we have with the Highway 23 Coalition has been really a good thing for Minnesota and our county."