There are some things about the 2024 street project that I would like to share with you. It is a complicated issue and there are several things that I would like to clarify.

First, highways 59 and 108 are state highways. Even though they run right through the heart of Pelican Rapids, the state of Minnesota owns those highways along with the right -of-ways next to them. 

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mndot) has the responsibility of regulating, building, and maintaining those highways. They have the power to set speed limits, crossings, regulate the street/lane width, signage, markings, sidewalk width, and other things that fall in the right of way. Their goal is to make the streets as safe as possible for all users. These users include not only cars, motorcycles, trucks, and farm equipment, but pedestrians, children and adult bicyclers, and people in wheelchairs. They are also trying to design a system that will work far into the future for all users.

What would it be like if every town in Minnesota had their own set of standards and traffic rules? 

In one place you could get a speeding ticket for 45 mph and in another a ticket for 25. It would be almost feudal as you would be operating with different rules in every town. By having the same set of rules and standards we know how to drive in each of these places. State regulations help ensure that happens.

Second, what the city of Pelican Rapids owns is below the street. This includes water, sewer, and storm drains and this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Much of the water and sewer below highway 59 was put in during the 1930s. That makes it 80-90 years old. We have exceeded the expected life of that infrastructure. 

In the last couple of years there have been several breaks in those lines. Everyone remembers when the intersection at 108 East was torn up to fix a water line break. There was a lot of damage to the adjacent businesses when basements flooded. There was another break to one of the downtown businesses prior to that. West Mill street was torn up for the same reason. This aging infrastructure should be replaced.

In all honesty, I can’t say when it will break again. It could be this winter or next, or five or ten years from now. No one knows. What I know is this infrastructure is old and the prudent thing to do is replace it before more damage is done. Replace it while the street is being worked on.

Third, this street project is our golden opportunity. It can give the downtown a new, fresh look. Just imagine how Pelican Rapids would look with a new street and unbroken sidewalks. It is not just the downtown area but all along highways 108 and 59 would have new sidewalks. That would fit nicely with the trail system that is coming from Maplewood State Park.

Replacing the water and sewer lines will be expensive. Very expensive. Mndot is willing to work with us to replace them. It is to their advantage because they do not want us to tear up the streets or sidewalks after they have redone them. It will save the taxpayers a ton of money if the city works with a partner. They will remove and replace the street while the city replaces the water and sewer lines. The cost will double, at minimum, if the city decides to replace the water and sewer without help.

Mndot has money marked to redo the highways through Pelican Rapids. This includes resurfacing, but also money for sidewalks and shared use paths along 59 and 108. This in itself will benefit the community. Working together we can replace some infrastructure that needs replacing. It would be a shame to forfeit this opportunity.

Steve J. Foster
Pelican Rapids city council