September 10, 2018 08:30 PM
As many as 70,000 vehicles pass through the community of Elk River on Highway 169 on any given day.
While at this location, many cars sit in long lines of traffic, waiting at the five stoplights along the highway. On summer Fridays and Sundays, the delays can last even longer with travelers head north and back south to cabins.
However, all of this will soon change, as MnDOT will remove all five of these stoplights, turning Highway 169 into a freeway.
"Which is going to make a lot of people in cabin country very, very happy but it's going to do a lot for local businesses as well," said Debbi Rydberg, with the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce.
Construction isn't set to begin for a few more years, but businesses in the area are already talking. The city wants to make sure those businesses still flourish during the two-to-three years this project could take.
MnDOT has the project estimated to costs roughly $157 million. All of it will be covered by MnDOT's corridors of commerce program.
"We're excited what it does for everybody," Elk River Public Works Director Justin Femrite said.
Femrite added the need for change to help emergency services will be a big plus for the project.
"We can't get emergency services from one side of the highway to the other," he said.
Designs are still in the works, however, main and school streets will likely be lowered, with overpasses going in to keep traffic moving east to west.
"Every community is growing, and if they're not growing they're dying, and I'd much rather see Elk River continue to grow and thrive," Rydberg said.
MnDOT says the project will reduce travel delays by more than 1,000 hours per day, eliminate approximately $1.7 million in crash costs annually, and make trips on the corridor much more reliable.
Preliminary design is set for 2018-2020, with final design and property acquisition from 2021-2023, and construction set for 2023-2025.
It's not yet clear which, or how many, businesses will be impacted by this change, but MnDOT says if a business or property owner in the area has questions about right-of-way acquisition, they can contact Kevin Schmidt at 218-828-5801.
Tommy Wiita & Jessica Miles
Updated: September 10, 2018 08:30 PM
Created: September 10, 2018 04:09 PM
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