Proposed Hwy. 23 bypass design adjusted

PAYNESVILLE -- The proposed state Highway 23 bypass design now has more access into Paynesville, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation made it clear Wednesday that no other changes will be made.

PAYNESVILLE -- The proposed state Highway 23 bypass design now has more access into Paynesville, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation made it clear Wednesday that no other changes will be made.

"This is MnDOT's final position," Pat Weidemann, MnDOT District 8 planning director, told the Paynesville City Council at its meeting. "We don't intend to go any further than this."

MnDOT presented a revised four-lane bypass design to the City Council with full access on and off the highway near the airport and a commercial area on the current Highway 23.

The council had asked for full access there and requested that MnDOT change the highway's classification to allow it.

The classification will not change, but MnDOT decided to allow the access because it thought the council wouldn't approve the design without it, said Lowell Flaten, MnDOT District 8 preliminary design engineer.


The highway is classified as rural, or 2A, which requires a one-mile gap between full interchanges. The council asked for an urbanizing classification, or 2B, which allows interchanges to be a half-mile apart.

The original plans called for a full interchange at state Highway 55 and at-grade intersections on Roseville Road and Lake Avenue. Near the airport, only eastbound traffic was allowed to exit the bypass. Traffic coming onto the highway in that area could access it from realigned Cemetery Road, which MnDOT is now calling First Street South, but only to go west.

MnDOT originally didn't put a full access there because First Street South and Highway 55 are sixth-tenths of a mile apart.

But business owners and the council were concerned that wasn't adequate access to the city. The revised design isn't a typical interchange. It allows westbound travelers to exit onto First Street South while eastbound motorists would exit onto old Highway 23, about 300 feet south of the high school.

"I'm pleased to see the access on the west, and I think that was a good adjustment," Councilman Dennis Zimmerman said.

Councilman Jeff Bertram said the design is a "good faith attempt," but said he wasn't sure about it.

At that point, Weidemann told the council this was the design MnDOT would submit for municipal consent.

The city needs to give consent to the project's design. MnDOT expects to give the city the final plans in about three weeks.


Then the city has 15 days to set a public hearing. Residents must have 30 days notice of the hearing. After the hearing, the council has 90 days to either approve or reject the plan.

An approval with conditions is a rejection and no decision is considered an approval.

If the city rejects the design, MnDOT will consider its options, which are appealing the council's decision, choosing another route or not doing the project, Weidemann said. If MnDOT were to choose another route, the city would need to consent to it.

Flaten also addressed other concerns the council had with the project. The council wants to rename old Highway 23 "Business Highway 23." Flaten said there is a process to do that, but said MnDOT wouldn't object to that name.

The council also asked about having access to old Highway 23 where the bypass splits off south of the city. Flaten said that set-up would be confusing for motorists. Instead motorists can get off the bypass at Roseville Road to get to old Highway 23.

The council also wanted MnDOT to upgrade Lake Avenue near Industrial Park to a 9-ton road because the city expects truck traffic to increase there after the bypass is finished. Flaten said it would be illegal for MnDOT to use trunk highway funds to improve a roadway that is 50 to 100 feet from the proposed project.

The bypass speed limit won't be determined until after a speed study is completed when construction is finished, Flaten said. But he said the speed will likely be greater than 45 mph.

The $44 million bypass project is planned for 2009. MnDOT needs to secure $22 million from the Area Transportation Partnership in order to do the project, Weidemann said. There is $10 million in federal money set aside for the project.


MnDOT selected what is called the "west" route for the bypass in September. That route goes around Paynesville to the west and north, brushing city limits. Currently Highway 23 runs through Paynesville.

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