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Paynesville Press - January 19, 2005

MnDOT planning to restripe Highway 23

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

MnDOT is planning to resurface and restripe Highway 23 from Paynesville to Richmond in 2005. As part of the maintenance project, MnDOT would like to restripe Highway 23 through Paynesville, extending the center turn lane to Highway 55.

The routine maintenance project will include removing the top layer of asphalt from the highway and resurfacing the roadway. The highway will not be widened.

When the refurbished highway is restriped, MnDOT has decided to extend a center turn lane from Stearns Avenue (where the current turn lane ends) west to Highway 55.

map Residents are invited to a public informational meeting at Paynes-ville City Hall on Wednesday, Jan 26, at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the project with MnDOT officials and to ask questions.

The center turn lane, according to MnDOT senior transportation planner Claudia Dumont, will get traffic flowing and reduce traffic backups due to drivers waiting for other vehicles to make left-hand turns.

As traffic increases through the city, especially during busy times, drivers making left turns from Highway 23 slow traffic. Drivers behind cars making left turns tend to pass those cars on the right using the parking lanes, which could be dangerous, public works director Ron Mergen told the city council at a recent meeting.

Leaving the highway as is is not an option, Dumont said, because increasing traffic would create more traffic backups. (Currently, a center turn lane exists on Highway 23 in Paynesville from Stearns Avenue to just east of Lake Avenue.)

From Stearns Avenue to Mill Street, Highway 23 is 55-feet wide, and this section will be restriped with a center turn lane exactly like the section of Highway 23 in town that already has a center turn lane. This section of highway will have nine-foot shoulders for parking, 12-foot driving lanes, and a 13-foot center turn lane. In this section, the major change will be narrowing the current driving lanes and shoulders to provide the center turn lane.

However, from Mill Street to Highway 55, Highway 23 is only about 50 feet wide, making it difficult to both add a center turn lane and to keep parking on the shoulders. MnDOT has at least three options for this section of the road. Last week, two of these options were presented to the city council, but city officials felt residents should have input in the decision and set the public informational meeting for next week.

chart The first option presented by MnDOT would involve eliminating on-street parking on Highway 23 from Mill Street to Highway 55. It would have seven-foot shoulders, 12-foot driving lanes, and a 12-foot center turn lane. These shoulders would be too narrow for parking.

The second option presented by MnDOT would allow for parking on one side of Highway 23. In this option, Highway 23 would be restriped to have 12-foot driving lanes and a 12-foot center turn lane, but the 14 feet for the shoulders would not be equally divided. Instead of two seven-foot shoulders, the roadway could be restriped to have one five-foot shoulder and one nine-foot shoulder. The five-foot shoulder would be too narrow for parking but the nine-foot shoulder would be wide enough for parking on one side of Highway 23.

The side of the street where parking would be allowed under this option has not been decided yet, according to Dumont.

After city officials gave these options a lukewarm reception at the city council meeting last week, Mergen urged the city to hold a public hearing to get citizen input. MnDOT is not bound to follow the city's recommendation for this maintenance project, according to city engineer Pete Carlson.

Since the city council meeting, MnDOT has added a third option for Highway 23 from Mill Street to Highway 55, according to Dumont. This third option would have eight-foot shoulders, 11-foot driving lanes, and a 12-foot center turn lane. This would still allow parking on both sides of Highway 23, but both the shoulders for parking and the driving lanes would be the narrowest of the three options.

Dumont believes this third option might be a good compromise, allowing ample parking and even slowing traffic on the curves due to the narrower driving lanes.

Bids for this maintenance project are scheduled to be opened in July 2005, so actual work on the project will not begin until late in the summer in 2005, according to Dumont. During the project, crews will work on one lane at a time, so it will not require a detour, but traffic and parking will be restricted during the work, said Dumont.

At the city's request, MnDOT will also add a right-hand passing lane to the eastbound lane of Highway 23 at the intersection of Minnie Street east of town, according to city administrator Steve Helget. This will allow cars to pass legally when traffic waits to make left turns to go to the Industrial Park.

The city also requested that MnDOT add a right-hand turn lane to Highway 23 at the intersection with Highway 55 to allow traffic leaving Paynesville to turn west on Highway 55. However, MnDOT turned down this request, said Helget.

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