Highway 23 bypass will be presented at open house

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 04/29/97.

During the Highway 23 Steering Committee meeting Monday afternoon, an open house date was set for 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, May 19, to receive input from the Paynesville community on proposed Highway 23 improvement plans. The committee also reviewed the rough draft of the staging/ implementation plan.

Several different areas will be set up at the open house for the public to view at the Paynesville Area High School,. Thse areas include the proposed by-pass plans, identified problem areas, improvement alternatives, access management plans, information on the district funding process, what the next steps in the project will be, basic information about the highway, and who to contact for more information.

During the Monday afternoon meeting, the steering committee was informed that the next step in the study process is to determine the staging or sequencing for implementation of the proposed improvements. Charlene Zimmer of SRF Consulting, informed those present that environmental studies will receive top priority in the next phase of development of the implementation plan.

Implementation of the recommended Highway 23 improvements requires the involvement of both MnDOT District three and eight and all entities along the route.

"Timing for implementation is ultimately dependent upon the money available for construction and the urgency for the improvements within each MnDOT district," Zimmer said. These MnDOT districts will utilize the information from the study to identify how the needs and the cost of the improvements in the corridor compare to the districts' other needs and demands.

"As they work together, MnDOT and the local governments may identify key corridor right-of-way parcels that are under threat of development. This is especially an issue if the Paynesville bypass is pursued," she added.

In regards to Paynesville, Zimmer explained the results of a license plate survey done by SRF in March. People were placed at each end of the city and recorded license plates over a 12-hour period. The numbers were run through a data base system to see what percentage of traffic remained in the Paynesville area and how many would use the bypass.

"We assumed prior to the study there would be 50-50 ratio of vehicles traveling to Paynesville and those passing through. The study showed a 60-40 split with 60 percent of the traffic staying in the Paynesville area," she said.

"The figures show solid numbers for roadway improvements in the Paynesville area," Zimmer stressed. Using the data collected in the study, SRF projects Paynesville would have about 7,600 vehicles passing through on weekends by the year 2020 and 6,600 on a daily basis.

Dave Solsrud, MnDOT, said they would not address the by-pass issue around Paynesville until after the environmental study was completed. Paynesville City Administrator Dennis Wilde stressed the need to know soon so building permits would not be issued in the proposed pathway of the by-pass.

Zimmer told Wilde the city needs to support the environmental study first. Wilde stressed the city and Paynesville Township boundaries could change a lot in the next 20 years and a lot depends on where the highway goes, especially in the township.

Zimmer suggested a somewhat controversial option, the city and township could propose a building moratorium in the proposed by-pass area until a definite route is selected.

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