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MnDOT, city and county to discuss city's intersection proposal

WILLMAR -- Representatives of the city of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and Minnesota Department of Transportation will meet Thursday morning at the Willmar City Offices to discuss a design proposed by the city for reducing crashes at the Business 71/County Road 24/23rd Street Northeast intersection.

The city's proposed design would close 23rd Street at Business 71 and would prohibit westbound traffic on 23rd Street from crossing Business 71 over to County Road 24, explained Mel Odens, city public works director. Also, the proposed design would prohibit eastbound traffic on County Road 24 from entering 23rd Street.

The proposed design would allow northbound Business 71 traffic to enter 23rd Street via an exit ramp, he said.

"You could still go the Law Enforcement Center by going through that intersection,'' said Odens.

Also, the design would provide an entrance ramp off of 23rd Street for traffic wishing to travel north on Business 71.

Odens said the proposed city design might be a better way to reduce collisions and minimize diversion.

"Right now, the residential zones to the west of this intersection need the ability to go north, and they won't have it with the concept that MnDOT and the county want to have,'' he said.

The city came up with the design after a resident suggested to the City Council earlier this month that 23rd Street be closed at Business 71. The closure would force traffic from the nearby Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building and the Law Enforcement Center to take Civic Center Drive back into town, rather than crossing the four-lane Business 71.

A traffic study showed most of the above-average number of crashes at the intersection happen between vehicles northbound on Business 71 and eastbound vehicles crossing 71 from County Road 24 to 23rd Street.

City staff worked on the design after the City Council in early June rejected a design favored by MnDOT and Kandiyohi County, which was suggested as the best option for reducing crashes and increasing safety at an affordable cost. Instead, the council recommended city staff study the idea suggested by the resident.

The design favored by MnDOT and the county, known at No. 3½, would allow for indirect left turns for northbound and southbound Business 71 traffic, but would prohibit east-west traffic from crossing the four-lane Business 71.

The design would provide visibility to left-turning motorists through their windshield of oncoming traffic rather than out their side window, which may be obscured by the vehicle's side post.