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A new turn lane on U.S. Highway 12 at the intersection with Seventh Street Southwest is part of the Highway 12 improvement project. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

Seventh Street part of Highway 12 plan

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WILLMAR — This year’s U.S. Highway 12 improvement project in Willmar includes a new right-turn lane at the intersection with Seventh Street Southwest. The new turn lane will separate eastbound Highway 12 traffic from traffic turning south onto Seventh Street Southwest.

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Also, the turn lane would help the city provide one of three gateway entrances to the central business district under design work approved by the City Council last year.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is combining the turn lane project on West Highway 12 with safety and maintenance improvement work slated this year on East Highway 12.

As the combined project moves ahead, MnDOT estimates the city’s share of traffic signal location and utility work at the new turn lane and storm water drainage work on the east end will be $58,747, according to Bruce Peterson, planning director and interim city public works director.

Peterson said MnDOT recently notified Willmar officials of the city’s estimated share. Peterson said pressure from the city and the fortunate availability of property at the intersection led MnDOT to consider building the turn lane.

Property for the turn lane had not been available until after a condemned 90-year-old church building located at the southwest corner of the intersection was demolished on Feb. 14, 2011, and after Peterson Brothers Funeral Home located next door bought the church property and sold part of it to MnDOT for the turn lane.

When the church was there, said Peterson, MnDOT was content to leave the highway as it was. “We asked them for the turn lane,’’ he told the council’s Public Works/Safety Committee Tuesday night.

Peterson said funds are available in the capital improvement plan to cover the city’s share because the city will be spending about $140,000 less this year on Public Works Department equipment.

Peterson recommended the city approve project participation and funding. He said the city needs the preliminary estimate for budgetary purposes. He said the city has agreements with the state for these types of highway projects.

“We do have a local share obligation,’’ he said. “DOT has bought the right of way. The city has no share in that cost.’’

During discussion, committee member Steve Ahmann asked if a portion of Seventh Street Southwest just south of Highway 12 could be widened to accommodate larger vehicles making right turns off of Highway 12 and onto Seventh Street.

Ahmann said if the city changed the width of the street, perhaps MnDOT would encumber some of the cost of improving traffic flow heading south on Seventh Street.

Peterson said there is only one lane of traffic for southbound vehicles on Seventh Street.

“Because of the signalization, we shouldn’t have any conflict of flows. I don’t know if we would go back at this time and even bring that subject up with DOT. The city would have to acquire that right of way. I’m not sure there’d be any engineering analysis to show any real benefit,’’ he said.

Committee member Bruce DeBlieck asked if the proposed turn lane would provide a wide enough turning radius for southbound vehicles. He said making a decision is difficult without seeing the plan.

Peterson said he would present the plan to the council on Monday night.

Committee members agreed to refer the turn-lane proposal to the council for action pending review of the plan.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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