Various officials met Thursday to discuss the troubled intersection of Business 71/County Road 24/23rd Street Northeast.
There was no consensus among the parties: the city of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation officials.
The consultant's study found that the majority of the crashes at this intersection involved eastbound vehicles entering 23rd Street and northbound vehicles on Business 71.
The consultant's proposed solution is to block all east-west traffic, except for emergency vehicles, at the intersection, build a left-turn lane from Business 71 to County 24, build a left-turn lane from Business 71 South to 23rd Street. Traffic from the golf course side could not turn northbound onto Business 71 and traffic from the county building side could not turn left onto southbound Business 71, but instead travel to possible U-turn lanes or alternative routes.
The city's proposed simpler solution is to block 23rd Street at Business 71 to eastbound traffic. Northbound Business 71 traffic could take an exit ramp to 23 rd Street and 23rd Street traffic could enter Business 71 via an entrance ramp.
The decision now apparently lies with the city.
The best long-term solution we believe is still an underpass under Business 71 for both vehicle and bike/pedestrian traffic.
This became even more evident this week with the completion of the bike path on the east side of Business 71 ending near the corner of Business 71 and 23rd Street as well as the county's construction project on County 24, which includes a wider road for more room for bike and pedestrian traffic.
We understand the under pass may be the more costly solution and a number of years down the road. Ultimately, it remains the best idea for this intersection.
In the interim, the next best idea we believe is the city's proposal for 23rd Street.
The city's solution addresses the primary accident location at this intersection: eastbound traffic crossing Business 71 to 23rd Street. This also may be a less expensive solution than the MnDOT proposal.
The city solution also keeps northbound 71 accessible for the citizens and businesses located to the west of the intersection, which is a bit access-challenged due to Willmar, Swan and Skataas lakes. While safety is important, suitable access is critical for citizens and businesses as well.
We encourage the city to stay the course and support this concept. This is a better alternative to the MnDOT/county proposal.