Highway 23 users want four lanes

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 7/3/96.

After questioning more than 500 people in a three-county area, C.J. Olson Market Research, Inc., came up with the conclusion that most people favored making Highway 23 a four-lane highway.

Lee Brady, C.J. Olson Market Research, explained the study to the Highway 23 Steering Committee on June 24 in Paynesville. The general public data was collected from March 11 to 31; the commercial and shipping data, from Feb. 27 through March 8.

Brady explained the methodology of the research. The residential sample was randomly selected by computer, houses in a specific zip code area, commercial/ shippers and truckers in the area.

"Our objective was to provide information from highway users as to the routes they traveled, frequency of use, likelihood of travel if improvements were made, why do they use Highway 23 and their highway improvement preference," Brady said.

Due to limited funding, the second most preferred improvement to Highway 23 is adding passing lanes with the third option, turning lanes. The least preferred option was limiting the number of driveway accesses.

Truckers definitely showed a preference for making Highway 23 a four-lane roadway over the other three options. This preference is probably based on their concern about time, the need to get to where they are going in the least amount of time possible.

Brady said they questioned truckers at the Hill Top Stop in Paynesville and at the Holiday Truck Stop, outside of St. Augusta.

Of the 400 residential property owners questioned, less than one percent, replied they were nonusers of the highway. Twenty-three percent reported usage of two or three times a month, while an equal number reported usage of less than once a month.

Of the Stearns County residents questioned, 18 percent were daily users of Highway 23 and 16 percent used the highway two or three times a week; 27 percent used the highway two or three times a month.

When the residential respondents were asked "what do you see as the major problems?" 45 percent replied too much traffic; 25 percent responded it was hard or unable to pass; 16 percent replied slow moving traffic; 12 percent, too many small towns and the roads are too narrow; 11 percent, too many curves; and 10 percent replied, rough roads and expressed the need for passing lanes.

Upon being asked what type of improvements they would like to see along Highway 23, 57 percent answered "make it four lanes." Twenty-four percent responded with answers too varied to categorize. Twelve percent felt the addition of passing lanes would be adequate.

Cheryl Plathe, MnDOT, explained the proposed corridor study schedule to the steering committee. Task for the corridor study is data collection and research, determine transportation needs, develop access guidelines, develop alternatives, conduct environmental inventory, do benefit-cost analysis, prepare implementation plan and study document.

Plathe said as part of the report they will be doing peak traffic counts at four or five key locations: 1) Mels Corner in Spicer; 2) Eagle Lake Y..Highways 23 and 71; Paynesville intersection of Highways 23, 55, and 4; New London where Highways 9 and 23 intersect, and 5) Richmond where Highways 23 and 22 intersect.

In developing alternatives, the consultants will identify potential options for Paynesville based on a 20-year forecast, and develop planning concept layouts for up to four intersection treatments and identify feasible improvements.

Plathe said they will conduct an environmental inventory along Highway 23 identifying wetlands, flood plains, known endangered species, known contaminated sites, ground water, major land uses and proposed developments, existing community facilities, known cultural resources (historic and archaeological) and existing parklands and trails.

From Mid-Minnesota Regional Development Commission, Don Winckler stressed Highway 23, being on the national highway system, had significant impact on the region. "Highway 23 connects Sioux Falls, S.D., to Marshall, Willmar and Duluth. Highway 23 is considered a major access to northern lakes. On an average summer day, between 1,000 and 2,000 recreational vehicles travel Highway 23 and from St. Cloud north, the number grows to between 3,000 and 5,000," Winckler said.

The next meeting of the Highway 23 Steering Committee will be held at 1 p.m., Monday, Aug. 26 at the Paynesville City Hall.

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