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MnDOT says federal stimulus plan could bump up Paynesville Highway 23 bypass project six months

MnDOT says federal stimulus plan could bump up Paynesville Highway 23 bypass project six months

PAYNESVILLE -- The construction schedule for Paynesville's state Highway 23 bypass could be bumped up by six months if Congress passes a federal spending plan.

Mayor Jeff Thompson said Thursday that representatives from Paynesville met earlier in the week with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to discuss a revision for the Highway 23 bypass design. The representatives left the meeting knowing that the project's starting date for construction could be this fall instead of spring 2010.

Lowell Flaten, an engineer for MnDOT's District 8 office in Willmar, said Thursday that if a federal spending plan is passed, the Highway 23 bypass project could be a top candidate for funding, and therefore, the starting construction date for the project could be moved up six months to this fall. The bid-letting for the project could begin in June, and consequently, construction could start in the fall, Flaten said.

According to Associated Press reports, Democrats in Congress rolled out an $825 billion spending and tax cut plan Thursday that is designed to tackle the nation's economic woes. Of the $550 billion of new spending included in the plan, national transportation causes will gain $43 billion if Congress passes and President-elect Barack Obama signs the plan.

The Highway 23 bypass in Paynesville, Flaten said, is "one of the most important" projects in District 8 and requires a majority of the district's resources. As a top priority, he said, the project could potentially gain additional funding from a tentative federal spending plan.

Tuesday's meeting between MnDOT and the city of Paynesville was originally scheduled for discussion about a revision to the far east portion of the Highway 23 bypass plan, Thompson said. In October, MnDOT decided it needed to alter the bypass design because that portion of roadway would run through a former city landfill.

According to previous reports, MnDOT wants to avoid the location because it is classified as contaminated property and could become an environmental concern if the area is dug up for highway construction.

With the new design, the bypass will be north of the landfill and run between an electric lift station and some ponds and lagoons.

Thompson said MnDOT is "pretty limited" in how it can alter the design because the lift station is near the landfill's location, therefore eliminating a few sites where the section of four-lane highway could be. Also, Thompson said, moving the nearby ponds or lagoons for the roadway would cost way too much money for Paynesville. "There's not much (MnDOT) can do," he said.

The alteration will eliminate an overpass from the roadway and add an on-grade intersection to the design, Thompson said.

In July, Paynesville approved the plan for the bypass after more than a decade of discussion and design changes. If the project does not receive additional funding, construction is slated for May 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.