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Editorial: The work continues on closing gaps on Highway 23

The wait for filling the gaps on Minnesota Highway 23 continues.With no transportation agreement yet in the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, Willmar and west central Minnesota residents should not give up hope on completing the four-lane Highway 23 be...

Highway 23 sign

The wait for filling the gaps on Minnesota Highway 23 continues.
With no transportation agreement yet in the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, Willmar and west central Minnesota residents should not give up hope on completing the four-lane Highway 23 between Willmar and Interstate 94.
Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Transportation conducted its fifth open house for the public to view and critique the latest plan revisions for the New London-Paynesville segment of Highway 23. The latest plan included open access to Highway 23 for 160th Street Northeast and a reconfiguration of the east end of 212nd Avenue Northeast.
So MnDOT’s plans for filling the gap for the 7½-mile stretch between New London to Paynesville and the 7½-mile stretch between Paynesville to Richmond continue to be developed. MnDOT was able to utilize funding from the special Corridors of Commerce program to fund this planning segment.
Now the next major step is to establish appropriate funding to build the new roadways to fill one or both of the Highway 23 gaps.
A coalition of businesses, residents and local officials from Willmar and Kandiyohi County are traveling to Washington, D.C., in June to lobby for Highway 23 to be added to the National Highway Freight Network.
If Highway 23 between Sioux Falls and St. Cloud can be added to the freight network, MnDOT would be able to receive funding grants under a new Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
Thus, there could be additional federal funding that could help fill the gaps on Highway 23.
Willmar and Kandiyohi County business leaders, residents and officials have been working in a bipartisan effort for more than two decades to complete the Highway 23 four-lane all the way to Interstate 94.
Highway 23 has seen some great improvements: the Willmar bypass was completed, the Willmar to New London segment was completed and Paynesville bypass was completed. And there will be six bypass segments soon being constructed along Highway 23 between Willmar and Sioux Falls.
Persistence and hard work does pay off for critical strategic development such as improving Highway 23 and connecting the Willmar Lakes Area to the Interstate Highway System.
When this is completed, west central Minnesota will gain a critical transportation connection that will benefit business, education, tourism and travel.

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