Last year, the legislature okayed $400 million in one-time funding for a program called Corridors of Commerce. That’s the same name as the 2013 program that brought us those nice passing lanes on Hwy. 23 a year and a half ago. This new appropriation is spread out over four years and is meant to address problems like traffic-delaying bottle-necks and improving the flow of freight movement. In addition to some other criteria, each project must be able to begin within four years of being funded. The available funds will be divided equally between Greater Minnesota and the Metro area. In Greater Minnesota, each of the projects is required to be on what MnDOT calls an Inter-Regional Corridor (IRC). Hwys. 212 and 23 are the only two IRC highways in MnDOT’s Willmar District.

Most of us recognize that there is almost no end to the road and bridge repair needs in Minnesota. While this is a step toward addressing that, it is a small step. It’s also the public’s chance to help shape where that $400 million will be spent. MnDOT has a website set aside for collecting the public’s input and will rank each of the qualifying projects before deciding which of them can be funded.

Fortunately, there are already some much-needed highway construction projects planned for our area in the next few years. Hwy. 212 will get resurfaced between Granite and Montevideo this year. I was hoping that MnDOT’s project would include eliminating several no passing zones by lowering some of the high spots and filling in a few of the dips on the highway. I’ve been told that it is a good idea but it wasn’t possible to include that work with this year’s project. I also like to think there is a good place to build passing lanes in each direction near YM County Road 5. These ideas will have to wait for another day, or several more years. Meanwhile, this busy stretch of 212 will get that much-needed pavement resurfacing.

The already bumpy Hwy. 23 between Granite and Cottonwood will be getting rougher for the next couple of years. However in 2020, we will see an extensive and very expensive re-construction of the road’s surface. There will be a new concrete surface, additional turning lanes and the replacement of three very large steel culverts. The project is big enough to consume the MnDOT Willmar district’s entire budget for the year but they are budgeting it over two years so that a few other, smaller projects can also proceed. The project is very complicated and will involve several detour options during most of the construction season. Perhaps the most difficult part is the redesign and reconstruction of the busy Hwy. 212/23/67/ Granite St. intersection here in Granite. It will be re-aligned a bit and that will require that it be closed for part of the construction season. Those re-design plans are in the works and under discussion. We’ll visit more about that in the coming weeks.

Finally, if all goes according to plan, the re-surfacing of Hwy. 212 east of here will take place in 2021. The rough surface and bumpy ride between the top of the hill east of Hawk Creek and the west edge of Renville will also get replaced with a concrete surface. The roadway through Sacred Heart will get rebuilt at the same time. All of this work will require a lengthy detour, too. Originally this was figured to be two separate projects with the reconstruction between Renville and Sacred Heart taking place in 2022 and the Sacred Heart to Hawk Creek stretch in 2024. Thankfully, those two projects have now been combined and moved up to 2021 meaning a quicker fix to the rough ride on that stretch of 212. It also means that there will be a detour for only one year, instead or two.

Meanwhile those Corridors of Commerce suggestions are being collected by MnDOT through February 5. This is opportunity to speak up for safer roads that most of us travel. I encourage anyone who drives on Hyy. 212 or on Hwy. 23 to check out MnDOT’s website for this at: http://www.dot. state.mn.us/corridorsofcommerce/index.html. You will see the Corridors of Commerce program guidelines and there’s a link that shows what has been submitted so far. It’s an unusual chance to have a say in what highway improvements will be funded. 

The Granite Chamber of Commerce’s community celebration and banquet kicked off the 44th annual Ole and Lena’s Winter Fest last Saturday at The Rock and was a fun evening. Comedian Roger Radley was hilarious and the food was excellent, too.

More fun continues next Friday with the annual Lutefisk Buffet at Prairie’s Edge Casino Friday evening and a full day of fun on Saturday, beginning with the pancake breakfast sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and Bert Raney Elem. School at the Minn. West campus, next to the annual craft fair and the Sons of Norway’s Norwegian crafts and foods. There’s a Buck Euchre tournament at The Rock that afternoon and the annual Firemen’s Dance at Prairie’s Edge Casino on Saturday night, featuring Granger Smith and the Shane Martin Band.