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Paynesville Press - June 18, 2003

Week remains to comment on route choices for Highway 23

By Michael Jacobson

People in Paynesville keep asking MnDOT engineer Lowell Flaten which way Highway 23 will be routed, certain that the decision on its future route has already been made.

In response, Flaten will ask them which route has been chosen and always hears a variety of responses. "That's the idea out there: that we have our made up our minds, but I can't determine which one it is," Flaten said at a recent public hearing about the current Highway 23 study being conducted by MnDOT.

Nearly two years into the regulated process used to select the best route for highways, MnDOT's consulting engineers, Edwards and Kelcey, have completed the scoping of routes, which looks at the alternatives and tries to pare them down to the best ones. These routes then will be studied in great detail during the Environmental Impact Statement, which will require over two dozen factors to be studied - from noise to economic impact - to determine the best future route.

Five options are identified in the scoping document for MnDOT to study in the Environmental Impact Statement: keeping the existing alignment through town without improvements; improving the existing alignment through town; and three bypass routes - south and east of town (east bypass), through the west end of town (west bypass), and around town to the north and west (far west bypass).

Maps of these routes are available for viewing at city hall.

Comments about the scoping document can be made to MnDot until Thursday, June 26, by writing to: Lowell Flaten, MnDOT District 8, 2505 Transportation Road, P.O. Box 768, Willmar, MN 56201-7068.

The Environmental Impact Statement should be completed in 2004. "It's really pointless for us to tell Paynesville what's good for Paynesville," said Flaten at the recent public meeting in the school auditorium. "That's not how (MnDOT operates)."

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