FOSSTON, Minn. — A proposal to reduce the number of lanes on U.S. Highway 2 as it passes through a small Polk County community is encountering resistance from area residents who worry it could hurt local businesses.

Foston, a city of about 1,500 around 40 miles west Bemidji, sees extra traffic during the summer tourism season, businesses say, and owners claim reducing the number of lanes could lead to congestion that would make travelers less likely to stop at shops and restaurants in the area.

In response to these concerns, more than 500 people have signed a petition opposing a city proposal to reduce the road from four lanes to two with a middle turn lane.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said three lanes of traffic would be safer for pedestrians to cross and that the changes likely won't affect lake season traffic. MnDOT is working on a Highway 2 corridor study to identify community concerns as it works to develop a long-term plan for the highway.

Local business owners claim in a petition on that there has not been enough data collected on congestion during the peak travel season.

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Leah Palubicki, owner of Palubicki's grocery store just off Highway 2, called the highway a “lifeline” for the city’s business district. She and other local business owners say they depend on Highway 2 travelers from the Twin Cities and North Dakota.

“We live and die by the traffic that we receive on the highway," she said.

However, MnDOT officials said traffic would have to double on Highway 2 to create a congestion problem, and proposed lane reduction would improve safety on the road.

Still, business owners hope the city of Fosston and MnDOT will make some smaller changes that won't include reducing lanes, including installing radar speed detectors and crosswalks with rapid-flashing beacons.

"Those would be significant impacts; (they are) proven to really help pedestrians walking down the streets crossing the roads as well," said Casey Holland, owner of the Fosston Dairy Queen.

The decision to reduce lanes is ultimately up to the city council and MnDOT officials say they plan to follow the city’s lead.

More information about the proposed changes will be available at an open house at City Hall scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.