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Marie Nitke/FOCUS Otter Tail County Commissioner Doug Huebsch, who represents the Perham area on the county board, said he couldn't believe how fast this project got done. "Economic development can't happen without community support," he said.

New Highway 10 interchange celebrated

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Perham community leaders gathered with county and state officials Tuesday to celebrate the opening of new interchange ramps at Highway 10 and Otter Tail County Road 34.

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The project was made possible through the Transportation Economic Development grant program, and involved many partners, including the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Department of Employment and Economic Development, KLN Enterprises and city and county governments.

"This was a community-driven project," said Jody Martinson, a MnDOT engineer who served as the master of ceremonies at the celebration. She said the ramps were a Perham-based initiative that would not have happened without the full support of all parties involved.

The idea was born back in 2007, after the location of the newly constructed Perham Health facility was first selected. Hospital leaders liked everything about the site, said CEO Chuck Hofius, except for two things: Ease of access and public safety (because ambulances would have to wind through town).

Recognizing that a new access point off the highway would be a benefit to the hospital - as well as to local industry and the community as a whole - they put their heads together with other stakeholders and state agencies and found a way to make it happen.

"We know how to get things done in Perham," said City Manager Kelcey Klemm in his celebratory speech. "This is a great improvement to the transportation infrastructure here. This project will have a lasting impact on the city."

According to MnDOT Deputy Commissioner Bernie Arseneau, the interchange will increase public safety and mobility. Infrastructure like this, he said, also ties directly to economic development. The project is expected to create 240 jobs.

Kenny Nelson, CEO of KLN Enterprises in Perham, said the new interchange will reduce semi truck traffic through town. As it was, about 500-600 KLN semis were traveling through residential properties each week. And another company expansion is planned to take place in the next year or so.

Now, many of those trucks (and others from other businesses in town) can be rerouted to use the new interchange.

The entrance and exit ramps opened ahead of schedule on Aug. 31. The project also included improvements to County Road 34 and a bicycle/pedestrian trail that will eventually connect to trails near the schools, hospital and downtown area.

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