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New portion of Fifth Street by Kandi Mall is now open for traffic; road should decrease traffic on First St. t

WILLMAR -- The "mall road'' portion of Fifth Street Southeast is now open.

The street was opened to traffic Thursday afternoon, said Mel Odens, city of Willmar public works director. Construction began in early September. The street was built just east of the Kandi Mall parking lot between a point south of Willmar Avenue to 19th Avenue Southeast.

The project was part of the city's 2008 improvement program. Odens said driving lanes and turn lanes were temporarily striped for winter. Permanent striping, along with construction of the final lift of bituminous surfacing, will be done next year.

Also constructed was an eight-foot-wide recreation path running parallel to the street.

The street will divert an estimated 3,000 northbound and southbound vehicles a day that previously cut across the mall parking lot. Odens said a traffic count will probably be conducted yet this month to find out how the street is affecting transportation in the area.

The mall road was the final portion of Fifth Street, which provides second-tier development access between Willmar Avenue and 28th Avenue Southeast. Other portions of the street had been constructed during the past couple of years.

Odens encourages motorists who might otherwise have had to drive on First Street to use Fifth Street instead.