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Editorial: Highway 23 two-lane gaps left out again

The Dayton administration Thursday announced plans to construct 10 highway projects around Minnesota to improve commerce transportation.

Once again, west central Minnesota has been shortchanged as the state Highway 23 Interregional Highway corridor between Willmar and Interstate 94 was not included.

Gov. Dayton noted Thursday that the 10 projects he proposed are not part of the state’s 20-year transportation plan.

We do not question the need of expanding U.S. Highway 14 sections west of North Mankato and east of Owatonna to four lanes for nearly $75 million in 2015 or the addition of passing lanes from Willmar to Interstate 90 for nearly $19 million in 2016.

In the midst of the second decade of the 21st century, Willmar and west central Minnesota remains the sole region of the state without four-lane access to the Interstate Highway System.

For a half century starting in the 1960s, Willmar and regional leaders sought four-lane capacity on U.S. Highway 12. The Minnesota Department of Transportation encouraged focus on supporting the Highway 23 Interregional Highway between Willmar and I-94/St. Cloud.

The community and region listened and worked toward that goal.

Now two decades into that effort, the region remains two 7-mile segments short of reaching the goal of four-lane access to the interstate system.

The facts remain: Willmar is the largest regional center in Minnesota without four-lane access. We have developed a strong regional center with ag processing, ag manufacturing, medical and retail sectors.

It is time for Willmar and west central Minnesota to get back on the bully pulpit and continue efforts to fill the gap on Highway 23 between Willmar and I-94.

Filling those gaps will have a positive impact on commerce transportation and vehicle safety all along the Highway 23 Interregional Highway.