Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Hwy 197 Corridor Vision


This project is separate from the Hwy 71 Corridor Study in Bemidji.

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: March 1, 2021

MnDOT, 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 www.mndot.gov/d2/projects/studies/hwy197-bemidji.

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. 



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)
  • Tiffacy 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)
  • Emelie Rivera (Bemidji City Council)
  • Ron Johnson (Bemidji City Council)
  • Josh Peterson (Bemidji City Council)
  • Sam Anderson (Assistant City Engineer)
  • Bill Pirkl (Minnesota Department of Transportation)