Highway 197: Contention on the County Board

By: News Director Larissa Donovan

BEMIDJI– The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners voiced their opinions on the Highway 197 corridor project during their work session yesterday.

MnDOT representative Darren Laesch discussed how the agency has been gathering input from community and business stakeholders since December, and how they’ve used some studies that have taken place over the two mile stretch of highway from Bemidji Avenue to Gillette Drive.

Laesch says that as traffic volumes increase on the corridor, crashes will increase 65 percent with even a 25 percent increase in volume.

Darren Laesch, MnDOT

Commissioner Jim Lucachick expressed his frustration that the county will have minimal say in the outcome of the project.

Jim Lucachick, County Commissioner

Other commissioners expressed concerns about semi truck drivers and snow plow operators being able to navigate one of the recommended alternatives, which include medians and several roundabouts constructed along the corridor.

The project isn’t scheduled to take place until the next five to six years, with a preferred alternative to be revealed in July. 

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