Bemidji City Council votes 4-2 for a roundabout plan on Highway 197

The Bemidji City Council passed a motion 4-2 to give MnDOT the go-ahead to continue with alternative 1 as the preferred choice for Highway 197.

The council did not make the formal municipal consent motion, but this motion will allow MnDOT to continue research into this alternative, with three roundabouts at Menard’s access, Hannah Avenue and Middle School Drive.

The formal action for the project not expected to begin until 2026 will come in about two years.

Ward 2’s Josh Peterson was one of the opposing votes and pointed to potential issues at the Hannah Avenue intersection.

Mayor Jorge Prince also opposed the motion, citing concerns of the business community not having more input.

MnDOT’s Darren Laesch, one of the leads of the project, said their focus was on reducing crash costs, which along that corridor are $2 million a year, and improving pedestrian safety with boulevards and a wider walking path.

Laesch described the input gathering process as a lesson learned after the failed garnering of municipal consent for the six-roundabout plan presented more than two years ago.

The council also approved a Sanford Center budget to cover two months and six days remaining of the VenuWorks contract.

The 2022 budget and levy passed unanimously at a net increase of 8.5 percent over last year, at over 7.1 million dollars.

The council also approved the street renewal plan for next year with an added motion to authorize new street lights during the reconstruction of Ridgeway Avenue.

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