MnDOT Seeking Input On Project That Would Add 6 New Roundabouts To Highway 197 In Bemidji
“We know that in roughly 5 to 8 years, we’re going to have to replace the pavements, we’re going to have to do a resurfacing project there, and if you’re going to be able to make any changes to the corridor, that would be the time to do it. So at this point we’re trying to research what would be the right answer with that,” says T.J Melcher, public engagement for MnDOT District 2.
No matter how you feel about roundabouts in Bemidji, there’s a good chance they’re not going away anytime soon. In fact, soon you could be seeing a lot more. The Highway 197 project would potentially add six new roundabouts from Bemidji Avenue near CVS Pharmacy all the way down to Menards near the bypass. The project would potentially get rid of most of the traffic lights on that road.
“We had a really good experience at the Bemidji Jaycees Home, Sport and Travel show a couple of weeks ago which we were able to touch base with a lot of the users of that corridor, and actually, with the roundabouts that have been out on 5th Street last year has really helped with the concept of this particular plan because people have a lot more experience with it,” says Melcher.
MnDOT says the roundabout option scored the highest in both safety and operation. Still, some are a little skeptical about the change.
“I think that so many roundabouts is a little unnecessary. I can see the idea of it slowing down the traffic, especially for left turns and stuff. It might make it a little bit easier so that they’re not waiting so long,” says Anna, a Bemidji resident.
“I think that having them on spots where there is no actual left turn light would be a good idea, but I don’t think it’s necessary on the ones that has a left turn light,” says Drew, another Bemidji resident.
Other were more positive about the change.
Greg, a Bemidji resident, says, “The roundabouts on 5th Street certainly seem to work really well and you can move through there quite efficiently, so it’s probably a good idea.”
MnDOT still has a lot to figure out. One of their big questions is funding. Still, they’re positive that something will be happening down the road.
“This project at this point, it’s not funded and it’s not programmed, and so it’s not necessarily in there, but we think it will score well for some grant programs so it’ll be eligible for some additional dollars with it, but we’ve got to have what that plan is going to be, and so that’s what we’re trying to figure out at this point,” says Melcher.
MnDOT is tentatively looking to complete the full project on a 6 to 8 year timeline, but it’s all dependent on what type of funding they get. MnDOT has planned an open house for members of the community to discuss the Highway 197 project. It’ll be held later this month on May 28th.