Maps show Highway 59 construction stages; detours for spring-summer 2024 season; including downtown

This computer enhanced graphic shows the south downtown intersection, including the roundabout at Pelican Drug and Bell Bank. Note the rapids and pedestrian bridge have been included in the image.

By Louis Hoglund

This computer enhanced image shows the north downtown intersection, including the roundabout.

About this time next year, the intersection of 108 and 59, on the south end of the Pelican Rapids business district, will likely resemble a war zone.

The first phase of the estimated $23 million highway reconstruction will begin at that location. The much-discussed roundabout will begin to take shape, along with a whole new Pelican downtown cityscape. 

The second phase will be on the downtown’s north end, where another roundabout will form. The one-block business district will be about a two-month project, with an array of detours intended to keep Pelican in business—despite the disruptions. The goal is to maintain access to businesses, and traffic to residential properties, at all times. It may only be one lane, or by a detour route—but access is the objective. 

The project was outlined at a joint MnDOt and city open house May 11 at the Pelican school fine arts auditorium.

“It’s a complex project, but the end result will really be nice for Pelican Rapids,” said MnDOT project engineer Tom Pace to a crowd of about 75 at the presentation. 

The 2024 phases will start with downtown, and continue in three stages on 59—including a reconfiguration of the awkward County 9-Highway 59 intersection on the north end of town. 

The 2025 phase will be Highway 108, east and west. 

Above, this series of maps show the staging for the 2024 reconstruction of Highway 59 through Pelican Rapids, starting with the downtown business area. Detours are shown during all three stages of the 2024 work.

This computer enhanced image shows the north downtown intersection, including the roundabout.

Following are a few of the topics touched on at the May 11 hearing: 

  • MnDOT has fashioned detours for every phase of the project. The “regional detours” are aimed at over- the-road truck and heavy equipment traffic, routing them in wide orbits around Pelican. Local detours will route traffic down side streets. 
  • One of the most heavily traveled detours during the course of the 2024 phase of the project is likely to be Great Northern Road, which is unsurfaced, running past the Farmers Elevator. A special surface sealer coating will be applied to firm up the road for more frequent travel, said Pace. 
  • Downtown will have two 12-foot driving lanes, with a four-foot median separating the parking lanes from the sidewalk.
  • New street lights will include fixtures to hang flower planters. Bike racks, waste baskets, and benches are also incorporated into the downtown plan. 
  • Parking has been one of the biggest concerns for downtown Pelican merchants. But when the design work was completed, only six parking spaces were eliminated along Highway 59 in the downtown area. 
  • During question-answer, Kathleen Hoover expressed concern about the loss of diagonal parking on the north side of the “Legacy building,” which is the large retail, residential rental building on the northeast side of downtown. 
  • Snow removal concerns were raised several times, including removal at the roundabouts. Four MnDOT plows will be assigned to HWY 59 108, said MnDOT’s Pace. Snow will be deposited in the buffer zone, and it will be the city’s responsibility to remove it. 
  • Trees have been a source of disagreement, especially among downtown business operators. Some want no trees, because of fall leaf removal, possible visibility issues for downtown signage, and as snow removal obstacles. Others want more trees. 
  • As the plan stands, there are eight trees on each side of the downtown business district. The species selected are smaller and narrower, with an autumn color mix of yellows and reds. 
  • Trees will also be planted along the 59 and 108 alignments stretching all directions of the central downtown area. These will be larger species with broader profiles. Tree planting will be paid for by MnDOT, but the city will assume responsibility for the trees after they are established. 
  • About 154 easements will be negotiated with private landowners. All but six are temporary easements, enabling workers to work on private property during construction. However, there are six permanent easements. A notable example is a small parcel that will need to be permanently acquired from Bell Bank, to complete the roundabout at that intersection. The  roundabout will also require Bell to relocate the bank sign on the northwest corner of the building. 
  • MnDOT is expected to advertise the highway reconstruction for bids in the fall of 2023.