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Crews accelerate work on Highway 23 Bypass at Paynesville, Minn.

Construction crews continue their work Thursday on the state Highway 23 Bypass, a project that eventually will move highway traffic around the city of Paynesville instead of through it. A new phase of the project is set to begin this week -- connecting the bypass to the existing highway on the east end. A detour will be in effect for an estimated seven weeks. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

PAYNESVILLE -- Construction crews working on the state Highway 23 bypass around Paynesville will be putting in overtime and working double shifts to make up for lost time during the state shutdown.

The project begins a new phase this week when the east connection to the 7.8-mile bypass will be constructed, resulting in a detour that will be in place until mid-October.

The detour extends from the east end of Paynesville to Roscoe.

The detour was originally supposed to last 90 days.

But the shutdown caused crews to lose "three weeks of the best construction weather," said Paul Rasmussen, project engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 office in Willmar.

The detour has been shortened to last about seven weeks to make sure that leg of the project is finished before the snow and ice season.

In order to cram 12 weeks of work into seven, contractors will be putting in additional hours, which is expected to increase the cost of the $32.2 million project, said Rasmussen.

This part of the project includes excavation of 3.5 million cubic yards of dirt and construction of 3,000 feet of road that will connect the bypass to Highway 23.

"It's certainly a lot to get into a short time frame," Rasmussen said.

Even though the shutdown cost the project time, MnDOT Project Supervisor Bill Knofczynski said it will be done by the target date of next August.

"I'd say we're still on schedule," said Knofczynski, who called the Paynesville bypass an "ideal" project. "If we get good weather, we'll go a long ways this year."

Besides the good working relationship with the host city of Paynesville, he said the sandy conditions on the corridor have made it possible to continue working despite heavy rains all summer.

If the route had been on clay, the project would be one year behind schedule, Knof-czynski said.

Besides the bypass connection, crews will also begin pouring pavement on the west end of the four-lane highway, he said.

When the detour ends, motorists will be able to drive on the new exit and entrance ramps to Paynesville and get a taste of a small part of the project.

As part of the two-mile detour, traffic will be detoured onto Stearns County Road 33, Stearns County Road 16, Stearns County Road 10, Stearns County Road 68/114 and then back to Highway 23.

The bypass extends from north of New London, from Kandiyohi County Road 6 to west of 263rd Avenue in Paynesville, and includes grading, paving, construction of eight bridges and lighting.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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