The public went wild after the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently released a computer-generated 3D “tour” of post-highway reconstruction in Pelican Rapids.

The simulated tour of what Pelican might look like after the Highway 59 and 108 projects drove people wild. Not in a good way. 

Social media lit up, with dozens of comments on the Pelican Rapids Press site, as well as the Pelican city site. 

This visual tour, combined with the recent removal of mature ash trees, has drawn frenzied reactions.

The local newspaper often finds itself in the position of a “referee” when these situations arise. 

While we can’t address all the issues raised, we can try to put things in perspective and correct some misinformation.

Trees: Yes. It is sad to see the trees go. But they are primarily ash trees, and the dreaded emerald ash bore is expected to kill those trees in five to ten years. The silver lining, MnDOT will replace those with disease-resistant varieties—at no cost to the city. 

A beautification committee has been formed in Pelican. This is a great way for the public to provide positive input on the community’s visual appearance, post 59-108. 

Roundabouts: This one is difficult to resolve. Lots of people hate those mouse-maze concrete contraptions. 

Detroit Lakes was referenced as having problems at their roundabouts near downtown. True confessions: I myself was momentarily baffled while passing through Detroit Lakes—just recently. 

Minds won’t be changed on roundabouts, until maybe folks use them a few times and—possibly—appreciate the traffic flow, especially in the summer when traffic backs up at the stoplights. 

Safety, accidents: One commenter noted the recent accident at the Pelican Drug intersection, when a vehicle nearly struck the Bell Bank building. That accident occurred when a motorist accidentally ran a red light. That type of accident will be mostly eliminated with roundabouts, instead of stoplights. 

Granted, there will likely be some fender benders with the roundabouts, but they are typically at slower speeds and less hazardous.

Personal sidenote: I myself narrowly missed a broadside collision when a motorist sailed through the Pelican Drug stoplight, at a relatively high rate of speed. 

The street project, combined with roundabouts, will slow the speed through the downtown business district. 

Emergency vehicles: The Pelican fire department was, for the most part, satisfied (though not delighted) that the roundabouts and downtown street design would allow emergency vehicles to get through. 

Expenses: Contrary to one post, new signal lights are MORE expensive to install than roundabouts—and there are ongoing maintenance costs with stoplights. 

Trucks, farm machinery: True—drivers of big rigs aren’t fond of roundabouts. But in today’s world, they are encountering them everywhere. The Pelican roundabouts are designed for trucks to drive over the center island as needed to make the turn. In speaking with a West Central Turkeys official, truck drivers are accustomed to roundabouts. The turkey plant generates the highest volume of truck delivery in town. 

Drive-through truckers, in most cases, are already negotiating roundabouts and will adapt. 

Farmers? And farm traffic to the Pelican elevator? They don’t like roundabouts. But a large share of the elevator traffic is coming from the west, and they are turning a block west of the roundabout location to reach the elevator. 

Parking: Yes, there will be a loss of parking downtown. But there would have been a loss of even more parking if MnDOT had designed for a left turn lane. 

Bottom line MnDOT owns the right-of-way, and it is obligated to design in accordance with its standards.

When the project is completed, Pelican will be a transformed city. And, when all is said and done, it should be an overall improvement to the “cityscape”—as hard as that is to imagine at this stage.