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MnDOT secures funds for passing lanes from Willmar to I-90 to be built in 2016

GRANITE FALLS -- The 140-mile run on Minnesota Highway 23 from Willmar to Interstate-90 is about to speed up. Eleven passing lane segments will be built at sites along this segment of Highway 23 in 2016, thanks to Corridor of Commerce funding. Th...

Joe Fagnano
Joe Fagnano, a Granite Falls city councilman, looks over maps of the passing lanes planned for segments of Highway 23 between Willmar and Interstate 90. (TRIBUNE/Tom Cherveny)

GRANITE FALLS - The 140-mile run on Minnesota Highway 23 from Willmar to Interstate-90 is about to speed up.
Eleven passing lane segments will be built at sites along this segment of Highway 23 in 2016, thanks to Corridor of Commerce funding. The Minnesota Department of Transportation hosted an open house meeting Tuesday in Granite Falls as part of the Environmental Assessment Worksheet process, which is required for the work.
There is now projected to be sufficient funding to do all of the passing lane construction in 2016. The Willmar office of MnDOT originally expected it would have funds to complete about one-half of the segments in 2016, with uncertainty as to when the remainder could be completed.
The total construction is estimated to cost $12 million, according to Nathan Pederson, a Professional Engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The passing lanes will help improve the movement of freight and commerce along the highway. โ€œPlatooningโ€™โ€™ of vehicles along the route slows movement now, according to Scott Janowiak, a project engineer with SEH Engineering.
Safety will be improved as a result of the passing lanes as well, he noted.
The project calls for passing lanes on the north and south sides of Raymond as well as the north side of Clara City. Another section of lanes is planned on a segment between Cottonwood and Hanley Falls. Passing lanes are also planned on segments near Florence, Jasper and Holland in the section of highway south of Marshall.
Traffic volumes on Highway 23 increase from south to north. Average daily traffic counts are around 2,900 north of Pipestone, and increase to 5,900 between Raymond and Willmar. The traffic count in the Willmar area is projected to grow to 7,400 by 2040.
Along with a growing number of vehicles, the roadway carries a significant volume of freight traffic.
Heavy trucks represent anywhere from 8.7 percent to 16.5 percent of the traffic load, with anything over 13 percent considered a significant freight volume for a highway, according to the project engineers.
Pederson said the current plans call for awarding the project in two segments, with the southern section from I-90 to Marshall likely to be first.

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