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Community Review Panel continues to review options for improvements to the HWY 197 Corridor

Darren Laesch, (218) 755-6553
Ryan Zemek, (218) 333-6541
rzemek@hrdc.orgMnDOT, along with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC) has continued the collaboration process with the local Community Review Panel (CRP) for the Highway 197 project in Bemidji. The group meets each month to discuss new solutions to the previously proposed alternatives in 2020.In 2019, MnDOT conducted an in-depth corridor study which ultimately resulted in the proposal of a roundabout corridor. That preferred alternative didn’t garner enough community support and was ultimately voted against by the Bemidji City Council. This renewed effort has been an attempt to start over. Since a resurfacing project has to take place regardless, because the pavement will reach the end of its service life, MnDOT's goal is to also include multi-modal improvements that will increase the safety and vitality of the corridor for motorists, businesses, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Over the past seven months, HRDC has met with the CRP to evaluate priorities and propose a new alternative to meet those goals. In June and July of 2020, the HRDC developed a list of volunteers to serve on a community review panel that will review the current conditions and evaluate all of the potential solutions in order to find one that best represents the community’s values. The members of the community panel can be found at the end of this email and also on the project site at

Most recently, the CRP reviewed segments one (Gillette Drive to Middle School Drive) and two (Hannah Avenue to Ridgeway Avenue). Joe DeVore, an engineering consultant with KLJ, has been present at each meeting to review expected safety improvements, present analysis on CRP concepts, and provide engineering insight to each segment of the corridor. As a new contract with MnDOT has just begun, KLJ plans to provide new CRP developed alternative layouts by May 2021.

During the March 2021 CRP meeting, the committee will be reviewing the final segment of the corridor which includes east of Ridgeway Avenue to Bemidji Avenue. The CRP meetings will be facilitated by HRDC representative, Ryan Zemek. The committee plans to compromise to new alternatives by May 2021, with a final recommendation to the Bemidji City Council by the end of the summer.

More about this project can be found by visiting Visit: