Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - November 16, 2005

Willmar to St. Cloud:
A drive on Highway 23 to analyze speeds

By Michael Jacobson

MnDOT judges time of travel for Highway 23 as part of the section of the medium-priority interregional corridor running from Willmar to St. Cloud. Specifically, this segment starts at the Highways 23/71 split by Willmar and runs to Highway 15 in St. Cloud.

MnDOT's target speed for this entire segment is 55 mph, meaning it wants motorists to be able to drive this 54-mile segment in 59 minutes.

On Saturday afternoon, I drove this segment timing the following segments and recording the corresponding distances. While this is the basic starting point for MnDOT's time of travel formula, my one-time trip would not meet its statistical requirements (for one, I did not drive it during peak traffic, and, secondly, multiple trips are needed for statistical accuracy). I did try to drive slightly above the posted speed limit, which MnDOT takes into account (as conditions allowed on Saturday).

Still, these results indicate the current state of the highway, respective speeds in the different segments, and what MnDOT's goals are for Highway 23. (One note, I have divided this drive into segments of my choosing, with towns based on where the speed limit changes or where lanes are reduced from four to two by New London and Richmond. What I call Waite Park starts with the first stoplight on Highway 23 west.)

I reached the Highway 23/71 split just after 4:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and drove in scattered rain with the clouds making the dusk even darker than usual.

My overall trip took 57 minutes and 20 seconds, averaging 56.4 mph, surpassing MnDOT's target speed of 55 mph. (I measured the actual distance from Highway 23/71 to Highway 15 as 53.9 miles.)

Highways 23/71 split to Spicer:
This 3.5-mile section - all posted at 65 mph - took 3:10 to drive. My average speed was 66.3 mph.

City of Spicer:
Highway 23 runs for 1.9 miles through Spicer, which took me 2:40. I hit one stoplight, and had to decelerate, wait five seconds for the light to turn green, and then accelerate. The other light was green. My average speed was 42.7 mph.

Spicer to New London:
This 2.9-mile section took 2:45 with an average speed of 63.3 mph.

City of New London:
This hardly goes through New London, but until the end of the four-lane I measured another 2.6 miles which took me 2:20 to drive, a speed of 66.9 mph.

New London to Paynesville:
This 10.2-mile stretch took me 11:05 to drive, though I was slowed by heavy rain and by a slow-moving vehicle ahead of me that I had no chance to pass. My average speed for this section was 55.2 mph.

City of Paynesville:
Highway 23 currently runs through Paynesville for 1.9 miles, counting from where I had to slow down on the west side to where I could speed up again on the east side. It has, I believe, the only posted 30-mph zone from Willmar to St. Cloud. It took me 3:20 to get through Paynesville, an average speed of 34.2 mph. I, of course, had to stop at the four-way stop at Highway 55 but did not have to wait.

Paynesville to Richmond:
This 10.8-mile stretch took me 12:15 to drive, though once again I was stuck behind a slow-moving motorist until the turn by Roscoe. My average speed was 52.9 mph.

City of Richmond:
The short (0.8 mile) stretch from where the four lanes begin to where you can start going 65 mph took me only 0:55 to drive, an average speed of 52.4 mph.

Richmond to Cold Spring:
This 3.6-mile section of Highway 23 took me 3:05 to drive, an average speed of 70.1 mph.

City of Cold Spring:
Highway 23 runs for 2.4 miles through Cold Spring. I had to decelerate for the first stoplight but did not have to wait; it turned green in time for me to accelerate again almost immediately. The other stoplight was green. It took me 2:55 to get through Cold Spring, an average speed of 49.4 mph.

Cold Spring to Rockville:
I actually measured from the end of Cold Spring all the way around the Rockville bypass about to where old Highway 23 rejoins the new highway on the east side. I measured this as 5.2 miles, and it took me 4:30 to drive for an average speed of 69.3 mph.

Rockville to Interstate 94:
This 2.9 miles took me 2:35 to drive for an average speed of 67.4 mph.

Interstate 94 to Waite Park: This 2.5-mile section (until the first stoplight going to Co. Rd. 75) took me 2:15 to drive for an average speed of 66.7 mph.

Waite Park to Highway 15:
Amazingly, I hit five green lights in Waite Park; the first red light was at the stoplight for Highway 15 after 2.7 miles. It took me 3:30 to drive this for an average speed of 46.3 mph.

On the way home, though, I hit two of the five lights (not counting the stoplight at Highway 15) and then it took me 4:30 to drive as I waited 45 seconds at the two stoplights. This reduced my average speed to 36.0 mph.

By section:
The section of Highway 23/71 through Spicer and New London is 10.9 miles long and took me 10:55 to drive, an average speed of 59.9.

The section from New London to Richmond, including Paynesville, is 22.9 miles long and took me 26:40 to drive for an average of 51.5 mph.

The section from Richmond to Rockville is 12.0 miles long and took me 11:15 to drive for an average speed of 64.0 mph.

And the section from Rockville to Highway 15 is 8.1 miles long and took me 8:20 to drive (hitting green on all five stoplights!) for an average speed of 58.3 mph. Adding a minute for the two stoplights I hit on the way home would reduce the speed for this section to 52.1 mph.

This shows the need for the improvement project in Paynesville since the average speed here in town was the slowest on the Highway 23 corridor from Willmar to St. Cloud. Paynesville (34.2) was even slower than Waite Park (36.0 mph, at its worst) on Saturday evening, though during peak weekday traffic one would expect to hit more lights in Waite Park, which would slow this speed even more.

The question facing the city council is whether the speed for the west alternative in Paynesville would be better at 45 mph (like Cold Spring and Spicer) or at 65 mph as MnDOT wants (like New London, Richmond, and Rockville).

Currently, it takes 8:50 to cover the length of the proposed bypass. (It is only seven miles at present; the bypass would add a mile of road.)

Should the west alternative be 65 mph from the Kandiyohi County line to the golf course (approximately three miles), then go 45 mph thru the west end of Paynesville, over Highway 55, and around the north side (approximately three miles), and then speed back up to 65 mph after the intersection at Lake Avenue (approximately two miles), then it would take 8:30 a time savings of only 20 seconds.

Should the west alternative be 65 mph from the full eight miles from Kandiyohi County to rejoining the current Highway 23 east of town, it would take only 7:30 to drive, saving another minute of time. If the new Highway 23 is built with a 65-mph speed limit, it would be like New London (66.9 mph on my trip) or Rockville (69.3 mph) and faster even than Richmond (52.4 mph).

If Highway 23 is built at a slower speed in Paynesville, say 45 mph for the urban stretch from the end of the airport to Lake Avenue, then it would be similar to Spicer (42.7 mph) and Cold Spring (49.4 mph).

Of course, any stoplights in Paynesville would slow traffic even more than that posted speed limit.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community