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Paynesville Press - January 26, 2005

MnDOT chooses Highway 23 restriping

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

hwy 23 map MnDOT has decided on a restriping layout for Highway 23 in Paynesville, to be done with a routine maintenance project next summer.

In 2005, MnDOT plans to resurface Highway 23 from Paynesville to Richmond. When the striping for the driving lanes is redone, MnDOT has decided to add a center turn lane from Stearns Avenue to Highway 55 in Paynesville.

This project will not impact the width of the highway and is unrelated to the study of the future route of Highway 23. (The draft Environ-mental Impact Statement - used to determine the future route of Highway 23 in Paynesville - has been delayed again.)

Because it is a maintenance project, MnDOT does not need city approval for this change. But the city will hold a public information meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 7:30 p.m. at city hall where MnDOT representatives will address the city council and the public about this project.

When repainting the lines on the highway after the resurfacing next summer, Highway 23 from Stearns Avenue east will be restriped as is, including a center turn lane from Stearns Avenue to Lake Avenue. From Stearns Avenue to Mill Street, Highway 23 can be restriped with a center turn lane like the existing three-lane alignment in Paynesville: two nine-foot shoulders for parking, two 12-foot driving lanes, and a 13-foot center turn lane.

From Mill Street to Highway 55, though, Highway 23 is narrower, posing a problem in adding a center turn lane and still allowing parking. MnDOT had three options for restriping this segment of Highway 23 but has decided on a compromise plan of having two eight-foot shoulders, two 11-foot driving lanes, and a 12-foot center driving lane.

MnDOT's plan will not eliminate parking from Mill Street to Highway 55, but it will significantly narrow both the shoulders (currently 11-feet wide) and the driving lanes (currently 14-feet wide). It also will have a narrower center turn lane than MnDOT normally uses.

After revisiting the project, MnDOT decided that narrowing the driving lanes and adding a narrower center turn lane - while preserving parking on both sides of the street - would be the best plan, said Claudia Dumont, a senior transportation planner for MnDOT in St. Cloud.

Of the two discarded options, one would have had two seven-foot shoulders, two 12-foot driving lanes, and a 12-foot center turn lane, with no parking allowed. The other would have had a five-foot shoulder on one side, two 12-foot driving lanes, a 12-foot center turn lane, and a nine-foot shoulder on the other side, with parking allowed on this side only.

Adding a center turn lane - from Highway 55 to Stearns Avenue - will help traffic flow and reduce traffic backups due to drivers waiting in the driving lanes for other vehicles to make left-hand turns. Narrowing the driving lanes will also force motorists to reduce their speeds around the curves on Highway 23, added Dumont.

Though MnDOT has the last word about the project, it's important for Paynesville residents to understand what effect the project will have, according to public works director Ron Mergen.

Mergen believes that narrowing the driving and parking lanes to allow a center turn lane on Highway 23 is a good compromise. Eight-foot shoulders should accommodate residents who want to park on the highway, he said, but motorists will need to be careful exiting their vehicles and drivers of larger vehicles may have trouble parking on these narrower shoulders.

The Highway 23 resurfacing and restriping project should begin after July 1, 2005, said Dumont. The project will include removing the top layer of asphalt and resurfacing Highway 23 from Paynesville to Richmond. No utility work will be done in conjunction with the project, according to Mergen, so traffic disruptions on Highway 23 should be kept to a minimum, with one-lane traffic in work areas.

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