Pipestone County Star / Kyle Kuphal
Pipestone County and the city of Pipestone have both joined the Highway 23 Coalition that formed last year to seek state funding to make state Highway 23 a four-lane highway from Willmar to Interstate 94.
The Minnesota Legislature approved $105 million for that project earlier this year.
The Coalition is now seeking state funding to improve the highway and make it four lanes for its entire length from Interstate 90 to Interstate 35 near Duluth.
Aaron Backman, secretary/treasurer of the Coalition, said the Coalition has 91 members including a dozen cities, 64 businesses, several counties and other entities, and that he’s been traveling to communities along the highway to ask them to join. Backman said the members provide input that the Coalition will use to lobby for funding for improvements to the highway.
“We believe that it’s important for the Coalition to be visible in St. Paul and Washington, D.C. and that we need to be assertive in pursuing funding,” he said. “No more Minnesota nice.”
Counties and cities can become members at the supporter level for $1,000 or the advocate level for $1,500, which level the Pipestone County Commissioners chose during their Aug. 14 meeting, and the Pipestone City Council during their Aug. 20 meeting.
“I think it’s a relatively cheap way for us to get our voice out there,” said Dan Delaney, Pipestone city council member.
Pipestone County Board Chair Dan Wildermuth expressed concern to Backman about the effect it could have on the city of Pipestone if the state made the highway four lanes through the area and Commissioner Luke Johnson said he’d like to see the highway be made concrete rather than asphalt during a project planned between Pipestone and Russell.
Backman said whatever the county board determines are its top priorities regarding Hwy. 23, he would bring those concerns to the Coalition Board.
“My board would have to evaluate because we have 18 units of government,” he said. “Everybody has their priorities.
Pipestone Couthy Star. Debra Fitzgerald contributed to this report.