Kandiyohi County Board supports a new Highway 23 project near Willmar
The Highway 23 Coalition continues on its mission to transform Minnesota Highway 23 into a complete four-lane highway from border to border. At the Nov. 1 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board, the coalition asked for the county's support on a project upgrade for 2.5 miles of the highway on the south side of Willmar.
WILLMAR — As work on the North Gap of the Highway 23 Gaps expansion project has wound down for the winter, members of the Highway 23 Coalition continue to work on their overarching mission.
"We've been working for quite some time on creating a four-lane, safe Highway 23 corridor from border to border," said coalition chair Jeff Bertram at the Nov. 1 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board.
Minnesota Highway 23 runs from just west of Luverne to Duluth, approximately 343 miles across the state. With work on the gaps to be completed in 2024, it will be a four-lane stretch from Willmar to St. Cloud.
However, there are many other stretches across the length of the highway where it drops back down to two lanes. The coalition wants to see all those gaps turned in four-lane highway.
To do that will require a lot of money. The gaps project between Willmar and St. Cloud alone has a price tag of nearly $50 million.
"We are going to make multiple funding requests for different projects along the corridor," Bertram said.
That includes applying for Corridors for Commerce funding for the 2.5 miles between U.S. Highway 71 and Kandiyohi County Road 5 southwest of Willmar. Most of that route is still two lanes.
With the Minnesota Department of Transportation planning to complete construction of the on/off ramps at the intersection of Highway 23 and County Road 5 next year, it would make sense to upgrade the highway as well.
"There is a direct local and regional benefit to the project," Bertram said.
Bertram asked the County Board to pass a resolution supporting the coalition's drive to get funding for the project. The board unanimously agreed, passing the resolution.
"We really appreciate your leadership and the relationship we have with the Highway 23 Coalition," said Commissioner Corky Berg. "It has really been a good thing for Minnesota and our county."
When the Highway 23 and U.S. Highway 71 bypass was first planned for Willmar, the stretch now being looked at by the coalition was intended to be four lanes. However, a funding crisis required the state to scale back the project.
"It was graded for four lanes many, many years ago," Commissioner Roger Imdieke said, adding he hopes to one day see it completed.
Bertram also reported that the Highway 23 Coalition, at its last meeting, discussed the proposed plans for the Highway 23 and Highway 9 safety improvements at New London.
Instead of a J-turn, MnDOT is now deciding between a roundabout or a modified interchange. The coalition passed a resolution supporting the interchange idea, believing it is the best option for the area.
Bertram also requested the County Board think about passing a resolution as well.
"MnDOT really wants to hear from the public," Bertram said.
Kandiyohi County Public Works director Mel Odens and County Administrator Larry Kleindl indicated a resolution would be placed on a future board agenda.