BEMIDJI -- At least three intersections along U.S. Highway 71, and potentially more, will be reconstructed in 2022.
Planning for the project, though, is still ongoing.
On Wednesday, Dec. 18, members of the public were invited by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to join in the planning process with a meeting of stakeholders, followed by an open house in Bemidji. It was the first of several community panel meetings scheduled throughout the winter with business owners, community leaders and motorists.
During the meeting and open house, residents were given a review of the U.S. Highway 71 corridor between State Highway 197 and Glidden Road.
"It went really good," said TJ Melcher, Minnesota District 2 director of public engagement for MnDOT. "We had 20 people here, a really good turnout, and we were able to go through all of the current issues, the constraints there and do a review of all the options."
Melcher said the corridor in total has nine intersections, but only three have been selected as for sure needing projects. The three are Anne Street Northwest, Glidden Road and Lakewood Drive Northwest.
"Anne Street for sure, because that's a big issue," Melcher said. "It's also a challenge because of the businesses on all the quadrants, plus the proximity to the Sanford Health campus. There's also not a lot of space, that will be our biggest challenge."
Five options for the Anne Street intersection were shown. One is to reconfigure and update the traffic signals, another was to create a roundabout, and a third was a reduced conflict intersection, where left turn options are reduced. Two other options included making overpasses for either Highway 71 or Anne Street.
In addition to alterations to the intersection, Melcher said Hannah Avenue would also likely be moved to give the Anne Street reconfiguration more space.
"Hannah Avenue is in a bad spot," Melcher said. "So, it's an opportunity to have Hannah in a spot that makes more sense. That's something we'll have to work with the city on."
According to Melcher, Lakewood Drive and Glidden Road are also being analyzed.
"Glidden is also a challenge," Melcher said. "Because you have the crossing traffic, plus the four lane to two lane aspect. With that, you have one side speeding up and the other slowing down."
The second community panel meeting is set for mid-January while the third will take place in late January or early February. Dates have not been determined. At the third meeting, Melcher said MnDOT is hoping to select a preferred option.
The preference for the project would then be presented to the Bemidji City Council and Beltrami County Board of Commissioners for consideration.