What are the Highway 23 “Gaps” Projects?
The segment of Highway 23 between Willmar and Interstate 94 is a distance of approximately 53 miles. Of these 53 miles, all but approximately 16 miles have been constructed as a four-lane roadway. The approximately 16 miles of existing two-lane roadway are known as the Highway 23 “Gaps.” The ultimate vision for Highway 23 between Willmar and Interstate 94 is a continuous four-lane rural highway.
The first segment of two-lane is between New London and Paynesville and is referred to as the south gap. The second segment is between Paynesville and Richmond. It is referred to as the north gap.
What is the Corridors of Commerce program?
In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature created the Corridors of Commerce program to provide additional highway capacity on segments where there are bottlenecks in the system and to improve the movement of freight and reduce barriers to commerce. Projects must meet the eligibility requirements identified within the law. Projects, including the Highway 23 “Gaps,” were selected in Greater Minnesota and the metro area based on their Corridor of Commerce scores. For more information on the Corridors of Commerce program visit www.mndot.gov/corridorsofcommerce.
How are the projects being funded?
Corridors of Commerce projects (selected in 2018), seven in all, are paid for using bonds. Bonds are borrowed money, and there is a limit on the amount of money that MnDOT can borrow in any given year. Because of this, all seven projects cannot be constructed at the same time.
Who will be the project lead?
MnDOT District 8 will be the lead on both gaps.
What is the project cost?
The cost estimate used for the Corridors of Commerce scoring process was $105 million. MnDOT will gain financial efficiencies by selecting the lowest cost pavement alternative and by utilizing as much of the existing roadway as we possibly can.
What does it take to develop large projects like the Highway 23 “Gaps?”
It takes several years to develop and deliver large projects (such as the Highway 23 south and north gaps).
Prior to construction, generally speaking, there are two main phases in project development:
- Highway layout development and environmental review (social, environmental, and economic impacts).
- Purchasing property (right-of-way), design, and obtaining permits.
By taking advantage of earlier funding through Corridors of Commerce, District 8 was able to complete the environmental review and study layout (approximately two years of work completed) for both the north and south gaps. Detailed design, permitting, utility coordination, and right-of-way acquisition are the next steps for both projects. It will take approximately three years to complete the remaining work before the project is ready to be constructed.
When will construction start?
Based on when we can access bonds we are anticipating a 2022 start date for construction. The two projects will not be built at the same time. They will be bid separately.
Each project will take two years to construct. Funds to construct the first project are anticipated to become available in 2022 and the second project would start in 2024. Currently, we do not know which of the “gaps” will be constructed first, but they will likely be constructed sequentially.
When will MnDOT start purchasing property (right-of-way)?
Purchasing property for each project will start 2-3 years prior to construction. MnDOT will work with affected homeowners and landowners throughout the process. MnDOT anticipates acquiring property starting in 2019.
Will the project require a detour?
Yes, both projects will require a detour. MnDOT will explore what portions of construction can be done under traffic.