Public meeting July 18 continues local input process on total Hwy 108, 59 reconstruction project in 2024  

By Louis Hoglund

This street scene of downtown Pelican Rapids probably dates to the early 1950s. Note the old water tower to the north. Hardware store is right foreground, with the Swan Rexall Drug further north on that side of the street.

The complexion of Pelican Rapids streets and sidewalks will change when the main arteries of Highways 108 and 59 are reconstructed in 2024. 

Planning for the major project will continue at the third public input meeting, July 18, at the Pelican Rapids Fine Arts Auditorium.  The session is 7 p.m. at the new auditorium. 

Two previous public meetings, combined with numerous committee sessions, have generated lively discussion over how Pelican Rapids will look in the future.  

The process has also been somewhat controversial, as many have expressed concern over the “narrowing” of traffic lanes–especially in the downtown business district. Issues have revolved around the balance between bicycle and pedestrian lanes; while considering the heavy truck traffic that passes on those state highways.

Meanwhile, in related planning, as many as a dozen Minnesota Department of Transportation and other officials were spotted around town last week, with bright yellow safety vests.  

Clad in yellow safety vests, as many as a dozen officials, including Minnesota Department of Transportation representatives, conducted walking tours in Pelican Rapids to gather information for the major Highway 59 and 108 reconstruction, scheduled in 2024. The group toured the city over three days. This photo was taken in front of the old creamery building, which is now an apartment complex.

The walking tours were aimed at visualizing sidewalk and intersection improvements–with key considerations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Most new installations in sidewalk, curb and crosswalk need to comply with handicapped accessible standards, reported Don Solga, city administrator, at the July 9 city council meeting. 

Business owners, particularly in the downtown commercial area, may be affected by the 108 and 59 construction.  The state owns the right-of-way, almost right up to the storefronts in some cases.  

The advantage for merchants is that, in some cases, the state’s reconstruction project may actually fund improvements along storefronts.  

The groups that toured the city last week inspected storefront sidewalks, as well as pedestrian intersections.  The observations from that tour, combined with those of the local committee, are expected to be considered in the 108 and 59 reconstruction. 

The highway project will not only alter and improve the downtown district, but also sidewalks and paths heading in all four directions of the center of the city. 

The public is encouraged to attend the July 18 public meeting to provide input and comment on the conceptual drawings.