Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Hwy 197 Corridor Vision


Designing future Highway 197 improvements

hastings bridge

A breakout group of community panelists working together in 2019 to identify issues and features along the corridor

Updated: October 10, 2021

Notable activities in October

Oct 12- Community Review Panel meeting

  • Panel discussion focused on the alternatives for the Hannah Ave and Middle School Dr intersections. The panel discussed the access needs for businesses located near the Hannah Ave intersection, along with the need for additional understanding of how the Hwy 197 intersection alternatives would affect the City’s options for future improvements to the side streets (Hannah Ave and Middle School Dr).
    • Hannah Avenue Business Access
      • Consensus on an alternative preference couldn’t be reached
        • Traffic Signal
          • The panel indicated a preference for a signalized alternative that includes a left-turn into Simonson Market
            • Because of the proximity of the access to the intersection, the engineering technical advisors are not able to develop a design that can accommodate both a traffic signal, and a left-in, without negatively impacting traffic safety
          • From an engineering perspective it would be possible accommodate a frontage road option that would allow for a left-in, located further away from the intersection, however it would have a higher impact on property owners
            • Because of the impact on businesses, the committee was not supportive of this option
        • Roundabout
          • It would improve safety and congestion at the intersection, but it has a higher impact on the adjacent properties, with a loss of parking stalls and green space at Super 8, and relocation of their Hannah Ave access
      • The committee agreed to conduct further analysis before selecting a preference
    • City agreed to pursue a traffic study on Hannah Ave and Middle School Dr to develop preliminary options based on the two alternatives
      • The panel will meet again following the completion of the traffic study to discuss the results

Oct 19- Business property site visit

  • Darren Laesch, MnDOT, Abby Randall, Chamber of Commerce, and Josh Peterson City Council, met with Kevin Williamson, Super 8, to view and discuss property impacts associated with a roundabout alternative
    • They discussed concerns about loss of green space, loss of 2-3 parking stalls, and the shift of Hannah Ave moving 12 feet closer to the building
      • MnDOT agreed to discuss options with the City to narrow the Hannah Ave approach to minimize the property impacts
      • The greenspace along Hwy 197 appears to be within MnDOT right of way
        • Additional discussion with zoning and planning may be needed to better understand how these changes could affect future redevelopment

Oct 25- City Council update

  • On Oct. 25 MnDOT appeared at the City Council Work Session to provide an update on the study’s progress. They reviewed the alternatives under consideration, public survey results and next steps
    • Separately the City Council approved a traffic study for Hannah Ave and Middle School Dr
      • KLJ Engineering will conduct the study, which is the same consultant supporting the Hwy 197 study
      • Using the same consultant saves the City of Bemidji time, effort, and money, in an examination of Hannah Ave and Middle School Dr
      • It also allows for a more holistic approach in identifying the best alternative for the community, as the decisions can be made in conjunction with each other

Currently, the CRP is planning their final meeting to vote for the preferred alternative they will be recommending to the Bemidji City Council.

Highway 197 Corridor Vision Study: 2021 Survey Results

Highway 197 Alternatives with Project Description

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.

Learn more about roundabouts in Minnesota here.

2020-21 Community Review Panel

The committee's purpose is to provide community supported corridor improvement recommendations to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Bemidji. Over the course of the year, the committee will:

  • Establish priorities and develop a community vision for the corridor
  • Identify and study issues along the corridor
  • Learn traffic safety and engineering concepts
  • Develop, evaluate and recommend feasible alternatives

The City of Bemidji selected committee members who represent diverse perspectives, including business owners, motorists; residents, bicycle and pedestrians, disabled users, transit, economic development, emergency response, planning, safety, engineering and local governments.

  1. The group will provide a final recommendation to the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the City of Bemidji
  2. The group will:
    • Represent the community's interests
    • Listen to all points of view and try to understand interests of others
    • Openly discuss issues with people who hold diverse views and participate in cooperative discussion to understand differences and find compromise where possible
    • Clearly articulate and represent interests of their organization and/or stakeholder group
    • Learn about, and contribute to understanding, the social and economic aspects of traffic safety, access management and engineering improvements
    • Generate and evaluate options to address issues expressed by group members
    • Facilitate dialogue between diverse interests
    • If applicable, keep represented constituent groups informed and solicit input
    • Advise on effective, feasible and publicly acceptable recommendations for corridor improvements
  3. The HRDC will support the group by:
    • Facilitating committee meetings
    • Be a liaison between the community, the City of Bemidji and MnDOT
  4. MnDOT will support the group by:
    • Providing relevant information (e.g. available data, studies, background and potential corridor alternatives)
    • Providing guidance on policy, funding and engineering
    • Addressing issues deemed significant by the group
  5. The City of Bemidji and MnDOT will be the final approval authority for adoption of the community panel's recommended improvements


  • Effective, feasible and supported recommendations for corridor improvements
  • Enhanced public agency collaboration and community partnership

  • The committee will meet monthly during the course of the year-long study.
  • The HRDC will convene each meeting, develop agendas and provide meeting summaries
  • MnDOT staff will prepare and provide technical information to inform discussion

The HRDC sought out volunteers and coordinated with the Bemidji City Council in developing the committee. The goal was to gather members who represent diverse perspectives including business owners, motorists, residents, bicycle, pedestrians, transit, economic development, emergency response, planning, safety, engineering and local government representatives.

  • Mark Dickinson (Century 21 Dickinson Realtors)
  • Arch Simonson (Simonson Station Stores)
  • Gary Gregg (Clarity Glass)
  • John Meyers (Marketplace Foods & Westridge Shopping Center)
  • Tiffany Baer Paine (Security Bank USA)
  • Jim Naylor (TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School)
  • Steve Hill (Hill's Plumbing & Heating, Inc)
  • Abby Randall (Bemidji Chamber of Commerce)
  • John Svingen (Bemidji Chamber of Commerce)
  • Jamie Thibedeaux (Resident)
  • Torry Swedberg (Resident, wheelchair user, advocate for the disabled)
  • Mur Gilman (Bike Bemidji)
  • Maggie Lowry (BSU Student)
  • Debbie Wold (Bemidji Housing & Redevelopment Authority)
  • Beryl Wernberg (Retired Emergency Dispatch, Toward Zero Deaths volunteer)
  • Dave Hengel (Greater Bemidji, Inc)
  • Jamin Carlson (Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board)
  • Mike Mastin (Bemidji Police Chief)
  • Ron Johnson (Bemidji City Council)
  • Josh Peterson (Bemidji City Council)
  • Sam Anderson (Assistant City Engineer)
  • Bill Pirkl (Minnesota Department of Transportation)