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Editorial: It is time to help fill the gap on Hwy. 23

It is time for another step in "Filling The Gap" on state Highway 23 to connect the Willmar region to the U.S. Interstate system.

Willmar remains the largest city in Minnesota without four-lane access to the nation's interstate system. It is separated by a multi-mile two-lane road from New London to Paynesville and from Paynesville to Richmond separates west central Minnesota from the four-lane interstate system.

This is a gap that needs to be filled in -- both for transportation and economic reasons.

The west central Minnesota region faces challenges of population and economic development. A major factor in these challenges is the lack of four-lane access.

Congress has started considering the next five-year transportation plan. It is critical that appropriate funding for the next step -- from New London to Paynesville -- be included in this plan.

Completing the next step is important to the cities along the way -- Paynesville and New London. It is also critical to other cities, such as Willmar, Spicer and all the rest of the west central Minnesota.

To help facilitate this next step, it is important for citizens in the region to contact our federal representatives for Minnesota, including:

- Sen. Amy Klobuchar

- Sen. Al Franken

- Rep. Collin Peterson

- Rep. Michelle Bachmann

- Rep. Jim Oberstar

Klobuchar, Franken, Peterson and Bachmann represent west central and central Minnesota, while Oberstar is a key congressional leader on transportation.

Convey your story about the important of "Filling the Gap" on Highway 23. Stress how critical this transportation corridor is to the economic development of Willmar and west central Minnesota.