We are all saddened by the death of a wonderful young man, Robert Brau, in the accident in Montrose, where a young woman allowed her car to drift across the midline and strike Brau’s motorcycle.

Several years ago another young Willmar man, Trae Mielke, was killed in Delano when forced off the road by an oncoming vehicle and into a bridge abutment.

Two lives snuffed out.

These are only two of many stories.

When I arrived in Willmar in 1972, I was told there was significant promise that U.S. Highway 12 would soon become four lanes. It was to bring an economic boom. Many meetings, negotiations with, I believe, seven highway districts between Willmar and Minneapolis, all took place. All of this became significantly politicized, created more heat than light, and finally was shelved.

How many lives have to be lost before these roads are upgraded and made safe?

Initially it was stated that Willmar was “on the list” for a four-lane U.S. 12 and would take about 20 years. Now 42 years later, I’m told Willmar is “off the list” and there is no money. Some passing lanes have been constructed, but that is obviously not enough, as another death has occurred, preventable by a four-lane road.

How many lives?

U.S. 12 is a very busy highway with many cars, campers, buses, heavy 18-wheelers and miles between the passing lanes. The by-pass at Long Lake is tragic as it should be four lanes but is only two.

Willmar is the largest city in Minnesota without a four-lane highway. This city has been ignored, and commercially strangled because of this. We’re told, “There is no money.”

What is the cost of a life like Rob’s or Trae’s? How many lives?

Minnesota Highway 23 is helping, but two seven-mile segments are still to be completed that are two lanes with 55 mph speed limits. In fact the limits go from 65 to 55, back to 65, then 55 and finally 65 mph. Very dangerous. Again we’re told “no money.”

The cost of a life? Anyone know? How many lives?

It is true that environmental studies have just begun on those two segments of Highway 23, just the beginning of a long road to four lanes. The one bright light is Rep. Mary Sawatzky who has spearheaded some movement in getting Highway 23 studies going. Much applause to her.

Again … How many lives is it going to take before not only Minnesota Highway 23 but the bigger issue, U.S. 12, becomes a safer and commercially advantageous four-lane highway to our cities of west central Minnesota?

Dr. James J. Tiede of New London is a doctor in the Willmar area.

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