Long Awaited Paynesville Bypass Opens Friday

Long Awaited Paynesville Bypass Opens Friday Click to Enlarge Photo:

Jul 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

PAYNESVILLE, MN (KNSI) - A road project that has spanned three construction seasons is finally reaching the finish line. The Minnesota Department of Transportation says barricades on the new Highway 23 bypass at Paynesville will come down today, and the new road will be open to traffic.

"It has probably been close to 20 years since MnDOT first started holding hearings between Richmond and Willmar...everyone around town has had a long time to think about this and be prepared," Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson told KNSI news. "The actual selection and design and completion process has been about 10 years."

By nature the bypass will divert traffic around the heart of Paynesville and Thompson says that fact has a few people frowning on the 32-million dollar bypass.

"Through the process, from the start most of the businesses wanted the highway to continue to go by their front door or within a block away," Thompson said. "Paynesville has kind of been spreading commercial and industrial-wise, so there is a little more to us than just the downtown area."

Despite concerns about diverting through traffic away from the town center, the option to roll the new highway through town would have come at much too high a cost.

"When we started looking at about how many homes or businesses would have to be removed or displaced with the highway coming straight through town I think it was in the mid-30s," Thompson said. "That is a pretty big chunk of tax base to recover from even if you are a business with your front door right on the highway."

As for the construction itself Thompson says he doesn't have any complaints about how the process played out.

"The contractor, KGM...has been very good to work with. They have been very good supporters of the community" Thompson said. "It's kind of a little bit of an economic boost over the last three construction seasons."

Mayor Thompson says they're putting together a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the completion of the new bypass and hope to make splash that could include dignitaries like the transportation commissioner and even the governor. The ceremony is tentatively scheduled for August 23rd.

There will be three exits off the bypass into Paynesville, and there are plans to develop city-owned land near one of the exits for commercial use.

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