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Paynesville Press - March 15, 2006

MnDOT adjusts alignment of proposed Highway 23

By Michael Jacobson

MnDOT District 8 (Willmar office) presented some slight alignment changes to the proposed new west route of Highway 23 to the Paynesville City Council last week, in advance of submitting a plan to the city for municipal consent. Map

MnDOT project manager Lowell Flaten said the design changes were "suggestions" from MnDOT Central Office geometrics staff, which also needs to approve the design plan. Basically, the geometrics staff in St. Paul wanted to make Highway 23 straighter from the curve around the end of the airport runway to where it curves before 185th Street and heads east to the Lake Avenue intersection. The design by the MnDOT District 8 staff had some slight curves during this stretch that the Central Office eliminated.

"The Central Office said, 'You've got a lot of curvature in here that you don't really need,' " Flaten told the council last week.

No changes were made to the accesses, other than to align them to the small alignment changes.

"It should be a road that drives a little better than what we had proposed," said Flaten.

"We think it's actually an improvement," he added, "but it sets us back (in timing)."

The alignment changes - see map - are, coming from the west:

*The curve around the end of the airport is sharper, making the crossing over new Main Street further to the west. This affects mainly city property from the old airport.

*The proposed highway goes slightly to the east through the small neighborhood on the south side of the Crow River.

*It crosses the river slightly to the east of previously proposed.

*It runs further to the east on the north side of the Crow River, further away from the WilGlo Acres Addition.

*It crosses Highway 55 at about the same spot west of town.

*Finally, it swings further to the west before making the easterly curve to parallel 185th Street north of town. This creates a longer cul-de-sac for current Co. Rd. 130 (which will be cut by the new highway) and a longer rerouting of a new Co. Rd. 130 to the west, which will intersection with Highway 55 just east of the Fleet Supply/WilGlo Acres entrance.

The city council asked Flaten about having these two intersections - the new Co. Rd. 130 and the Fleet/WilGlo entrance - coincide. That is, have them directly opposite each other to make a more regular intersection, which is generally safer. The council suggested to Flaten that it might be easier to move the Fleet/WilGlo entrance further east than the Co. Rd. 130 entrance to the west to have them directly opposite.

Flaten also told the council that the Central Office had lengthened the turning lanes at the Lake Avenue intersection (from 300 feet to 500 feet).

He also told the council that the District 8 Office still needs to prepare cross-section and grading plans and submit them to the Central Office, which they are still preparing.

MnDOT's submission of a plan to the city for municipal consent, said Flaten, would not happen now before the end of March or even early April.

Once the city receives the plan submission from MnDOT for municipal consent, it has 15 days to set a public hearing, which must be held within 60 days of MnDOT's request. After the public hearing, the city council has 90 days either to approve or deny the request for municipal consent.

The city could approve the plan with conditions, but this is considered a denial unless MnDOT agrees to the conditions. If municipal consent is denied or approved with conditions, MnDOT could decide to appeal, or it could change their proposal, or it could drop the project.

Once municipal consent would be given, the city's formal input into the Highway 23 project would be done, though it could continue to consult with MnDOT informally.

With the approval of $22 million in funding from Area Transportation Partnership 8 in January, this project is scheduled for construction in 2009, said Flaten. The council asked about some proposals in the state legislature for transportation funding. If these come through, these funds could be used instead of ATP 8 funds, but either way the project should be constructed in 2009, Flaten told the council.

The Paynesville project for Highway 23, now estimated at $46 million, involves building four lanes from the Kandiyohi/Stearns county line to a couple miles east of town.

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