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Kandiyohi County, Minn., officials tout Hwy. 23 funding request

WILLMAR — A request for $140 million in funding to finish the state Highway 23 four-lane project from Willmar to St. Cloud was wholeheartedly endorsed this week by the Kandiyohi Co-unty Board of Commissioners.

There are two segments of Highway 23 that are still two lanes.

One seven-mile section is between New London and Paynesville and the second seven-mile section is between Paynesville and Richmond.

Completing those gaps is seen as a crucial link for economic growth to the region.

Bills have been introduced to include funding in the 2014 bonding bill that would finish the projects.

At the request of Rep. Mary Sawatzky, the commissioners signed a letter of support Tuesday for the bill that Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, authored along with Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Paynesville.

A hearing on House File 1263 is scheduled today before the House Transportation Finance Committee.

Sens. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, and Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, have sponsored the companion bill in the Senate — Senate File 1157.

“We have a serious lack of transportation capabilities,” said Commissioner Doug Reese.

Completing the Highway 23 corridor gap could be “a big part of helping and assisting economic and individual growth in communities all along Highway 23,” he said. “I’m very happy to see this letter and initiative.”

The letter from the commissioners states that there is a “direct link between transportation infrastructure and economic sustainability” and that one of the biggest factors in community growth is access to a four-lane highway.

These communities “tend to have a more diverse economic base and they become a hub of activity for retail, healthcare, manufacturing and service businesses,” the commissioners said in the letter, and they “tend to be a regional center for educational opportunities and non-profit services.”

Commissioner Roger Imdieke said the lack of good transportation could also be one of the reasons this area has difficulty attracting and keeping people in the 25-40 age group. A lack of access to reliable broadband Internet service in rural Minnesota communities is another factor, he said.

In other action Tuesday, the commissioners authorized County Attorney Jenna Fischer to initiate eminent domain proceedings to obtain permanent and temporary right of way on three small parcels of property along Kandiyohi County Road 4 near Green Lake.

The strips of land are needed for an improvement project on the highway slated for this summer.  

The eminent domain proceedings could take as long as four months, said Public Works Director Gary Danielson. Although a settlement could still be reached, the county decided to initiate legal action to ensure the property is obtained in time for the construction project.

The county reached agreements with other property owners to purchase necessary land for the project but failed to negotiate a sale price with the owners of these three parcels.

Carolyn Lange

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

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