Roadwork abounds this summer
WILLMAR — The season of orange cones, traffic delays and detours is here.
With construction underway in earnest, motorists can expect to deal with the annual sights and sounds of road work for the next four months or longer.
Crews started this month on a handful of highly visible projects in Kandiyohi County.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is in the midst of resurfacing the Highway 71 bypass around Willmar.
U.S. Highway 12, another high-traffic road, is undergoing resurfacing from Willmar to the Meeker County line, plus the addition of a left-turn lane at the intersection of Highway 12 and Kandiyohi County Road 4.
When motorists reach Atwater, they’ll encounter more construction — updated pedestrian crossings, curb cuts and other improvements to improve handicapped accessibility at several intersections.
To the west, passing lanes will soon be under construction on Minnesota Highway 23 between Clara City and Raymond. According to MnDOT, the construction and detour for the passing lane south of Raymond is scheduled to begin June 13, weather permitting, and other sections later in the summer.Kandiyohi County Public Works launched a couple of high-visibility projects this month as well — reconstruction of County Road 40 east of New London, known as the Irving Road, and surfacing on County Road 5 from Minnesota Highway 7 all the way up to the Highway 23-71 bypass just south of Willmar.
Both projects are off to a good start, according to Mel Odens, county Public Works director.
“There are a lot of good things going on. It’s been a good year for construction for us,” he said.
Next month the county plans to let bids for another important project, the reconstruction of 45th Street Southeast, or Green Acres Road, east of Willmar.
Motorists will have to exercise patience, especially since many of the current projects involve main highways that are heavily traveled.
MnDOT is doing its best to minimize the inconvenience, said Al Setrum of the District 8 contract administration department.
“We all understand,” he said of the headaches created by detours and traffic delays.
Instead of shutting down traffic on the Willmar bypass and on Highway 12 while construction takes place, both roads are remaining open. Pilot cars are leading motorists through the construction zone one lane at a time.
“It does cost us a little bit more to keep the public flowing through work zones but it makes it as painless as possible,” Setrum said. “That’s our No. 1 goal — the traveling public and the businesses and towns. We’ll still get you there.”
Construction of passing lanes on Highway 23 between Clara City and Raymond involve more logistics — and a couple of detours. But MnDOT is staging the project so that traffic still has access to both towns, Setrum said. “We’ve really made an effort not to detour towns if we can help it.”
That won’t be the case for those along the Irving Road. A detour went into effect at the beginning of May and will remain in place until construction wraps up for the season sometime in September.
There’s more to come later this summer.
Kandiyohi County is installing new overlay on a four- to five-mile stretch of County Road 1 from Pennock north, as well as overlay on County Road 36 north of Sunburg. MnDOT has a surfacing project planned in the same area, on Minnesota Highway 9 west of New London.
Early in August the Nest Lake bridge on Highway 23 also will be shut down for four to five days for resurfacing.
Although construction already is having an impact on local travel, the number of projects currently underway is about the same as last year.
Unexpectedly low costs for bituminous this year, sparked by a drop in oil prices, has enabled some additional projects to be added to the list. Kandiyohi County plans to add a couple more miles to its project on County Road 1 and MnDOT has accelerated about $5 million worth of road work that was scheduled for 2017.
Two more high-impact projects loom within the next couple of years: North Highway 71 and the northern half of Kandiyohi County Road 5.
As drivers encounter construction zones throughout the summer, Setrum counsels patience and caution.
“Slow down and obey all the signs,” he said. “That makes it safer for everybody.”
The state projects indicated by number and highlighted areas of highway are:
1) Minnesota Highway 23 passing lanes construction north of Clara City
2) U.S. Highway 12 overlay from Willmar to the Kandiyohi/Meeker county line.
3) U.S. Highway 12 and Kandiyohi County Road 4 construction of a left turn lane in Atwater
4) Minnesota Highway 9 resurfacing from New London to Sunburg
5) Highway 23/71 Bypass resurfacing of westbound lane of Willmar bypass
6) Minnesota Highway 23 bridge grinding on Nest Lake Bridge
25) U.S. Highway 71 concrete rehab
28) Minnesota Highway 23 passing lanes construction north and south of Raymond
The general vicinity of the Kandiyohi County projects are indicated by a letter and a construction cone are:
A) Overlay on Kandiyohi County Road 36 north of Sunburg
B) Overlay on Kandiyohi County Road 1 north of Pennock
C) Reconstruction of Kandiyohi County Road 40 east of New London
D) Surfacing on Kandiyohi County Road 5 from state Highway 7 all the way to the Highway 23/71 Bypass
E) Reconstruction of 45th Street Southeast, or Green Acres Road, east of Willmar