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June 18, 2020

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Headwaters Regional Development Commission to lead effort in identifying future improvements on Paul Bunyan Drive in Bemidji

BEMIDJI, Minn. —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.

To learn more about the current and future conditions, view the results of the corridor study and stay up to date on the project, please visit the project webpage at mndot.gov/d2/projects/studies/hwy197-bemidji.

To request an ASL or foreign language interpreter, or other reasonable accommodation, call Janet Miller at 651-366-4720 or 1-800-657-3774 (Greater Minnesota); 711 or 1-800-627-3529 (Minnesota Relay). Alternatively, send an email to janet.rae.miller@state.mn.us