Businesses not pleased with MnDOT’s proposals for Highway 197

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

BEMIDJI– The business community made their feelings known on roundabouts and their potential to be constructed along Bemidji’s business corridor during a presentation with MnDOT yesterday morning.

The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce hosted with TJ Melcher and Darren Laesch of MnDOT, who were available to answer questions.

Many business leaders feel that one proposal, named alternative four which includes replacing six traffic signals with a mix of two lane and four lane roundabouts, is a drastic change.

First National Bank President Hugh Welle expressed his dislike of roundabouts but acknowledged MnDOT’s area of expertise.

Hugh Welle, First National Bank

After the presentation, Chamber President Deb Pfaff took a headcount vote on which proposal the business community would prefer, with most choosing an alternative that looks into phasing in the roundabouts in the westernmost part of Highway 197, which has fewer accesses to business.

MnDOT has the most right of way in that section, with 120 feet west of Hannah Avenue, 100 feet west of Delton Avenue and 80 feet of right of way east of Delton.

Next for MnDOT for this project includes applying for grant funding, completing an environmental review and to continue into the final design of the preferred alternative. 


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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