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Rock County joins Highway 23 Coalition with eye on Highway 75

Rock County Star Herald / October 10, 2018

Rock County Commissioners joined the Highway 23 Coalition with a $1,000 membership that begins in January.​

Coalition secretary and treasurer Aaron Backman spoke with commissioners during their regular meeting Oct. 2.

He said Highway 23 is recognized by the state Department of Transportation as a "Corridor of Commerce." (Highway 75 is not on corridor list.) 

The Highway 23 Coalition was formed in May 2017 to secure $105 million for the two, four-lane gaps (one is nine miles and the other is four miles) on Highway 23 between Willmar and I-94.

Backman said four-lane construction on Hwy. 23 last occurred in 2009 and work on the remaining 16 mile was not included in MnDOT's 10-year Capital highway Investment Plan.

"No more Minnesota nice," he said. "We needed to pursue funding." 

Improvements to the designated Corridors of Commerce are paid for through dedicated funding established in 2013 specifically for road improvements not on MnDOT's improvement plan. 

Backman said even though the Highway 23 Coalition completed its primary vision for a four-lane highway, the Coalition continues to add members like Rock County to promote future improvements along the 343-mile corridor. 

Highway 23 runs north-south through the county along its western-most border. It was rebuilt in 2013, but commissioners voted 4-1 to join the coalition in hopes that it could improve funding for other local projects.

"We need to start somewhere," said Commissioner Gary Overgaard who made the motions to join.

Highway 75 in Rock County is in visible need of major repairs, but improvements aren't scheduled until 2025 and 2027. 

Commissioner Jody Reisch cast the lone "no" vote because no other major county municipalities re located along the highway.

One exception is the city of Jasper, which straddles the Rock and Pipestone county line. 

Rock County becomes the tenth county involved in the 96-member coalition. 

Pipestone County joined as an advocate for Hwy. 23 road improvements earlier this summer, Backman said.