Environmental study next for Hwy. 23 project

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 06/10/97.

With the Highway 23 corridor study almost completed, the steering committee was looking at the next phase.

Pat Weidemann, District 8 planner, Willmar, suggested the communities along Highway 23 set access management environmental study as their next priority. ďEven if the area isnít scheduled for improvements, access management and an environmental study takes time to set in place,Ē he said.

Weidemann said Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is establishing a new office for access management. ďWe want to keep the steering committee in place to help us move forward with access control,Ē he added. ďYou have access to the communities interests and can help standardize development of goals.Ē

One goal Weidemann, District 8, would like to see happen in the near future is the environmental impact assessment statement for the Highway 23 corridor from Willmar to Spicer.

ďAt present, District 3 (St. Cloud office) doesnít have the money to start an environmental study, so District 8 will help fund the study to keep things moving,Ē Weidemann said. ďOnce the studies are done, and the money becomes available, we are ready to start building a four-lane highway from Willmar to Spicer. We are working with a strong deadline and are hoping for a target date of 2004 to 2006 for construction,Ē he stressed.

ďDistrict 3 has a tighter program as they have Highway 23 funded to Richmond by 2002,Ē Weidemann said. ďThe two MnDOT districts are committed to the corridor. It is just that District 3 is a larger district with more highways demanding attention, making it a tougher project to sell at this time.

Weidemann said the Nest Lake/Green Lake area will hopefully be having aerial photos taken this summer to help with the environmental and access manage-ment studies.

ďHow will the proposed highway directly affect homeowners?Ē Weidemann said that question canít be answered until after the environmental studies are done and a definite route is decided upon.

Charleen Zimmer, SRF Consulting Group, Minneapolis, brought along to the Highway 23 Steering Committee meeting comments made at the Spicer and Paynesville open houses held recently.
Comments from the Spicer open house varied, while the by-pass was the major one concern at Paynesville. But a concern at both open houses dealt with access to Highway 23.

At the Spicer open house it was suggested building the four-lane highway going north on Highway 71 from Eagle Lake, by-passing Spicer, coming in the south side of New London, then continuing to Paynesville. Another suggestion was to take Highway 23 around the east side of Green Lake, then on to Paynesville.

At the Paynesville open house, the majority of people attending seemed to favor the north by-pass around Paynesville. Citizens seem to feel this alternative would have the least amount of effects: it would affect fewer people, avoid the golf course, provide more room for construction, avoid city water wells, cause less disruption of homes and recreational properties.

John Janotta, president of the Koronis Hills Golf Course, presented the planners with a petition containing more than 225 names urging the north route.

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