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Business 71 intersection safety improvements begin Monday

WILLMAR -- Motorists will encounter lane closures on the Business 71 four-lane as a safety improvement project begins Monday at the Business 71/County Road 24/23rd Street Northeast intersection, announces the District 8 office in Willmar of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The new intersection design is expected to improve safety by reducing the number of injury crashes by approximately 80 percent, MnDOT said Friday.

Northbound Business 71 traffic will be directed to the right lane and southbound Business 71 traffic also will be diverted to the right lane while crews construct the center turn lanes and permanently close the median crossover.

When the new intersection is complete:

- Northbound Business 71 traffic will have direct access to 23rd Street and southbound Business 71 traffic will have direct access to County Road 24.

- Access to Business 71 from County Road 24 and 23rd Street will be limited to right turns only.

- Southbound Business 71 and County Road 24 traffic will have access to 23rd Street using a new U-turn located in the median of Business 71 near Civic Center Drive.

- Signing will direct westbound 23rd Street traffic to Civic Center Drive and Business 71. (See diagram above.)

The project is expected to be completed Nov. 12, weather permitting.

Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg is the prime contractor for the $725,610 project. The cost will be shared equally among MnDOT, Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar. The Willmar City Council and the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved the improvement in early August.

Numerous crashes at the intersection, including fatalities, during the past couple of years focused attention of officials and the public on safety improvements at the intersection.

The intersection does not have the greatest number of crashes in the city, according to Willmar Police Department statistics, but the crashes are more severe due to the high rate of speed of the vehicles involved.

The design of the intersection resulted from more than a year and half of study and discussion by the city, county and MnDOT.

The design is similar to a crash-reduction design constructed in 2008 on U.S. Highway 169 in the city of Belle Blaine, according to MnDOT.

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