Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Hwy 197 Corridor Vision


This project is separate from the Hwy 71 Corridor Study in Bemidji. A virtual open house for that project is going on now through Dec. 14th.

Designing future Highway 197 improvements

hastings bridge

A breakout group of community panelists working together in 2019 to identify issues and features along the corridor

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is partnering with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission to help develop new plans for Highway 197/Paul Bunyan Drive corridor improvements in Bemidji. MnDOT is seeking improvements to the corridor between Bemidji Avenue and Gillette Drive to increase the safety and livability for residents, businesses, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

In 2019, MnDOT utilized community engagement with a panel of community and business stakeholders to study the corridor. A variety of improvements were recommended by that committee, including a series of roundabouts along the corridor, but the Bemidji City Council did not support moving ahead without further buy-in from the community.

The Headwaters Regional Development Commission will lead the renewed planning effort by collaborating with residents and businesses during the next year to evaluate priorities and recommend alternatives.
“Our core mission is to help our communities be successful,” said Tim Flathers HRDC Executive Director. “A viable Highway 197 corridor is vital to the health of our community, and last year’s process ended without a decision. This is an opportunity to find a more community supported design.”

In July the Bemidji City Council will consider approval of a representative panel comprised of local residents, business owners, stakeholder groups and municipal representatives. The committee will begin holding monthly meetings in August and the process could last up to a year. If you are interested in serving as a community representative or would like more information on how to be involved in this process, please contact Emily Tribby at 218-333-6542 etribby@hrdc.org, or Tim Flathers at 218-333-6532 tflathers@hrdc.org.

With this renewed effort MnDOT is looking to build on relationships and work with the HRDC to further develop the community conversation. MnDOT is committed to working with the community to identify and select a preferred design to the maximum extent possible, but doing nothing is not an option.

The pavement along the Highway 197 corridor will reach the end of its service life by 2025, and will need to be replaced regardless of alternatives selected. Safety and access improvements must be made along the corridor and the recommendations identified by the HRDC and the Community Review Panel will be forwarded to the City of Bemidji and MnDOT for consideration of feasibility and construction. Adoption of a unified vision for the project is expected by the summer of 2021.

2020-21 Community Review Panel

The committee's purpose is to provide community supported corridor improvement recommendations to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Bemidji. Over the course of the year, the committee will:

  • Establish priorities and develop a community vision for the corridor
  • Identify and study issues along the corridor
  • Learn traffic safety and engineering concepts
  • Develop, evaluate and recommend feasible alternatives

The City of Bemidji selected committee members who represent diverse perspectives, including business owners, motorists; residents, bicycle and pedestrians, disabled users, transit, economic development, emergency response, planning, safety, engineering and local governments.

  1. The group will provide a final recommendation to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Bemidji
  2. The group will:
    • Represent the community's interests
    • Listen to all points of view and try to understand interests of others
    • Openly discuss issues with people who hold diverse views and participate in cooperative discussion to understand differences and find compromise where possible
    • Clearly articulate and represent interests of their organization and/or stakeholder group
    • Learn about, and contribute to understanding, the social and economic aspects of traffic safety, access management and engineering improvements
    • Generate and evaluate options to address issues expressed by group members
    • Facilitate dialogue between diverse interests
    • If applicable, keep represented constituent groups informed and solicit input
    • Advise on effective, feasible and publicly acceptable recommendations for corridor improvements
  3. The HRDC will support the group by:
    • Facilitating committee meetings
    • Be a liaison between the community, the City of Bemidji and MnDOT
  4. MnDOT will support the group by:
    • Providing relevant information (e.g. available data, studies, background and potential corridor alternatives)
    • Providing guidance on policy, funding and engineering
    • Addressing issues deemed significant by the group
  5. The City of Bemidji and MnDOT will be the final approval authority for adoption of the community panel's recommended improvements


  • Effective, feasible and supported recommendations for corridor improvements
  • Enhanced public agency collaboration and community partnership

  • The committee will meet monthly during the course of the year-long study.
  • The HRDC will convene each meeting, develop agendas and provide meeting summaries
  • MnDOT staff will prepare and provide technical information to inform discussion

The HRDC sought out volunteers and coordinated with the Bemidji City Council in developing the committee. The goal was to gather members who represent diverse perspectives including business owners, motorists, residents, bicycle, pedestrians, transit, economic development, emergency response, planning, safety, engineering and local government representatives.

  • Mark Dickinson (Century 21 Dickinson Realtors)
  • Arch Simonson (Simonson Station Stores)
  • Gary Gregg (Clarity Glass)
  • John Meyers (Marketplace Foods & Westridge Shopping Center)
  • Tiffacy Baer Paine (Security Bank USA)
  • Jim Naylor (TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School)
  • Steve Hill (Hill's Plumbing & Heating, Inc)
  • Abby Randall (Bemidji Chamber of Commerce)
  • John Svingen (Bemidji Chamber of Commerce)
  • Jamie Thibedeaux (Resident)
  • Torry Swedberg (Resident, wheelchair user, advocate for the disabled)
  • Mur Gilman (Bike Bemidji)
  • Maggie Lowry (BSU Student)
  • Debbie Wold (Bemidji Housing & Redevelopment Authority)
  • Beryl Wernberg (Retired Emergency Dispatch, Toward Zero Deaths volunteer)
  • Dave Hengel (Greater Bemidji, Inc)
  • Casey Mai (Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board)
  • Mike Mastin (Bemidji Police Chief)
  • Emelie Rivera (Bemidji City Council)
  • Ron Johnson (Bemidji City Council)
  • Sam Anderson (Assistant City Engineer)
  • Bill Pirkl (Minnesota Department of Transportation)