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Bonding bill includes new money for Highway 23 project

WILLMAR -- Looks like the Highway 23 four-lane project between New London and Interstate 94 may get funded after all. As part of the bonding bill that was finalized this weekend, the Legislature added $400 million to the state's Corridors of Comm...

Erica Dischino / TribuneThe Highway 23 Coalition, which aims to add additional lanes on state Highway 23 between New London and Paynesville, held a Transportation Rally Friday at O’Neil’s in Spicer. Local, state and government officials attended, as well as members of the public.
Erica Dischino / Tribune file photo The Highway 23 Coalition has lobbied for completing the four-lane highway state Highway 23 between New London and Interstate 94. Money was included in the bonding bill for the project.
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WILLMAR - Looks like the Highway 23 four-lane project between New London and Interstate 94 may get funded after all.

As part of the bonding bill that was finalized this weekend, the Legislature added $400 million to the state's Corridors of Commerce program and put the state Highway 23 project on this list to be completed, said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.

Highway 23 was one of three highway projects selected to receive the new money, along with highways 14 and 252.

"Highway 23 is an important project to a lot of our greater western Minnesota legislators and we recognize the importance of doing it," Urdahl said, who is chairman of the House bonding committee.

The Highway 23 Coalition, a task force comprised of local units of government and businesses, had lobbied hard for the project. Urdahl said he'd received dozens of emails and calls from coalition members.

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Funding for construction of the two segments of four-lane gaps along the Highway 23 corridor won't be allocated until 2022-2024, but it "will receive funding," said Urdahl.

He said there is money for the Minnesota Department of Transportation to initiate preliminary work this year on Highway 23.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who wanted a larger bonding bill, will have the final say.

Urdahl said he's optimistic Dayton will sign it.

"There are all kinds of jobs and infrastructure for the state of Minnesota. I can't imagine the governor vetoing that," he said.

Other regional projects in the bonding include funding for three veterans nursing homes, including one in Montevideo; $5 million to Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District to renovate their building in Cosmos that's used for a specialized program for students with autism; and $100,000 for the Litchfield Opera House.

The bill also includes an influx of money for the Public Facilities Authority to help communities replace aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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