Bemidji Council to review Highway 197 options and future of downtown barricades Monday

A community review panel will present its ideas for the future of a section of Minnesota Highway 197 that runs through Bemidji. The Council will also discuss the future of barricades in the city's downtown to provide outdoor seating space to restaurants.

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BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council is expected to hear results from a community review panel Monday tasked with exploring options for the redevelopment of Minnesota Highway 197.

The panel was created and administered by the Headwaters Regional Development Commission to find common ground ideas for the future of a busy Bemidji corridor. The section of road, also known as Paul Bunyan Drive, extends from Bemidji Avenue to Gillett Drive and is used by between 10,000 and 16,000 motorists daily.

By 2030, the stretch is estimated to handle more than 20,000 vehicles per day. Because of the increase to traffic, along with a goal of making the area safer and fixing an aging road, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is looking to reconstruct the corridor in the next several years.

A proposal was brought forward in 2019 for the corridor that included six roundabouts along the stretch but it was voted down by the Bemidji City Council that year.

MnDOT chose to work with the HRDC to restart the discussion and the local organization created a panel with several members of the community. The panel has been meeting for the past several months and will present its ideas to the Council during the meeting.


Another item the Council will review on Monday is the future of the barricades in downtown that allow outdoor dining space for several restaurants. With the state mask-mandate ending and several other restrictions lifting May 28, both city staff and downtown business owners are looking for direction from the Council.

The Council put up the barricades during the summer of 2020 and again this year to create outdoor space with indoor seating limited to mitigate the coronaivrus. The city rented the barricades for the season until Sept. 30 at a cost of $9,250.

Four downtown businesses -- Bar 209, Brigid's Pub, Keg and Cork and Table for 7 -- are using them. If the Council wants to keep the barricades in place over the summer, ordinance amendments will be needed and business owners will have to work on options for parking with the city.

Should the Council choose to remove the barricades, the city will receive a $3,000 credit.

Other agenda items for Monday's meeting include:

  • A public hearing on a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for a community development block grant application. The grant would be used to retrofit buildings for use as a shelter to benefit homeless individuals.
  • Consider a professional services agreement to begin work on the second phase of the city's Water Treatment Plant. The second phase will expand the existing facility that is now in operation near the Bemidji Regional Airport. It removes chemicals that don't break down over time from the city's water wells

The Council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and can be viewed at the city's website .

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