Hwy 23 Coalition Seeks Input for Future Projects

Lakes Area Review / Brett Blocker

With momentum from its success in securing $105 million from Governor Dayton’s 2018 Bonding Bill behind it, the Highway 23 Coalition is now gathering input from local communities for future construction priorities.

This week Secretary/Treasurer of the Highway 23 Coalition Aaron Backman met with members of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners as well as the New London and Spicer City Councils to gather a list of their top project priorities for development along the highway for which the Coalition will work toward securing State and Federal funding during the 2019 legislative session at the State Capital.

Although the $105 million from Governor Dayton’s Bonding Bill was undoubtedly a major accomplishment, Backman said the Coalition is “not done yet.”

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“There are other things to do, and one of those things we’re focusing on is looking at other projects along the Highway 23 corridor that [Coalition] member cities believe would enhance safety and economic growth. We’re receiving input from cities and councils on their top two-to-three projects they’d like to see implemented.

“Even though we may not necessarily get something approved tomorrow, we’re laying the groundwork for other projects and other funding.”

Backman also noted that if the general public would like to weigh in on project suggestions, they can do so by submitting them directly to the Coalition at: [email protected].

No formal listing of project priorities has yet been provided by the Kandiyohi Board of Commissioners. However, in speaking with Kandiyohi County Director of Public Works Mel Odens, Backman stated that several areas have been noted as potential priorities, including Highway 23/1 intersection near Raymond.

Regarding Spicer’s priorities, City Administrator Leslie Valiant listed the future construction of a pedestrian/bicycle crosswalk bridge over Highway 23 in downtown Spicer.

“We identified the bridge as a priority because when we were looking at our local option sales tax, we wanted it to be used for safety issues,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of funding and engineering work and base work. A bridge like that is probably over one million dollars, and probably another $600,000 for engineering. So if we can have the Highway 23 Coalition help, it would give us more legislative leverage.”

During their meeting Wednesday night, several members of the New London City Council named the intersection near the Country Stop as a potential priority.

Concerning the local Highway 23 projects currently underway, no official timeline has been developed for construction on the two gaps selected for inclusion in Governor Dayton’s Bonding Bill (the seven-mile section between New London and Paynesville, and the stretch between Paynesville and Richmond). However, Backman places the best estimate for their start at approximately 10 months, and believes that due to a 50-percent greater rate of crashes and fatalities on the north gap, that that section will be the first to be constructed.

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