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Paynesville Press - March 19, 2003

Highway 23 gets $1 million in federal funding

By Michael Jacobson

Congressman Mark Kennedy presented a $1 million check to the Highway 23 project at city hall in Paynesville on Friday.

Congressman Kennedy presenting check Kennedy (R-Watertown) represents Minnesota's Sixth Congress-ional District, including the city and township of Paynesville. Kennedy said the money was included in an annual appropriations bill by Congress nearly a month ago.

The money will actually be used for the Spicer project, which was just let for bids, said Dave Trooien, MnDOT District 8 Engineer in Willmar. But this $1 million will free MnDOT funds to use for the rest of Highway 23, including Paynesville. "I can assure you that some of that money will go to Paynesville," said Trooien.

Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson, Congressman Mark Kennedy, Highway 23 Task Force Chairman Bob Dols of Willmar, and MnDOT District 8 Engineer Dave Trooien pose with a $1 million check for Highway 23 at city hall in Paynesville last week.

Without federal dollars, MnDOT does not foresee having the funding to complete the Paynesville project until 2017 at the earliest.

This $1 million will not fully fund improvements in the Paynesville area. Preliminary cost estimates by the engineers studying improvements and bypass routes in the Paynesville area were in the $20 to $30 million range.

A six-year federal highway bill will be passed this summer, and Kennedy brought good news on this front, too. Highway 23 improvements in Paynesville were rated as one of the top 13 projects in the state by MnDOT headquarters, Kennedy said. A positive sign, he added, when you consider that 31 projects in his district alone applied for high-priority funding in the federal bill.

Kennedy attributed this success to the strong coalition pushing for Highway 23 improvements, including the MnDOT districts based in Willmar and St. Cloud. This month, a 15-person group from Willmar, along with Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson, traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for high-priority funding for Highway 23.

Kennedy said it was great to have the Highway 23 coalition come to Washington so Congressmembers could understand how important this project is. "There's a lot of people pushing at the plow and getting things done," said Kennedy.

Highway 23 has already been expanded to a four-lane road from I-94 to Cold Spring and bids have also been let to complete four lanes to Richmond.

In Paynesville, a study is currently being done to determine what is the best future route of Highway 23. Last week Kennedy again expressed no preference among the specific routes but faith that the community would support whatever route is eventually chosen.

Kennedy expected a House version of the six-year federal highway bill to be complete by the end of July and the final bill to be completed by the end of September.

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