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Partners planning public meetings for Highway 12 corridor study

Patrick Weidemann, planning director and study project manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, discusses the issues and concerns with Highway 12. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Business owners, homeowners and others who live, work and drive on U.S. Highway 12 through Willmar will have an opportunity to comment in a couple of months on a study three government partners are undertaking for the east-west corridor.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, the city of Willmar and Kandiyohi County will examine issues and concerns for the corridor from 45th Street Northeast on the east to County Road 5 on the west.

“We’re going to try and develop a common vision for the corridor into the future, and at some point in the future if resources become available, it’s hoped that we can do work,’’ said Patrick Weidemann, planning director and study project manager with the District 8 Minnesota Department of Transportation office in Willmar.

The goal is not to develop a plan of improvements, but rather establish a vision for the corridor that allows the partners and stakeholders to work toward a common direction, which would allow for future construction projects if funding were to become available.

 “We do not have any resources identified in the next 10 years for this corridor, and that’s just a reflection of some of the statewide larger needs and limited resources that we have,’’ Weidemann said. “It’s not in our next 10 years.’’

The $150,000 cost of the study is being shared with the city paying $50,000, the county $20,000, and MnDOT paying the remainder.

This study will not be a confirmation of a 1992 study that related to improvements primarily on the eastern section of the highway. Weidemann said MnDOT set that plan aside and it remains in the office archives.

“It was a different time, different era, different things. This is really looking at what are the issues and concerns of Highway 12 today. We know it’s a key gateway into Willmar from the east, and the importance of maintaining the gateway to the business community and the businesses that are growing,’’ he said.

The need for the current study arose last winter when MnDOT was developing a surface reconditioning project slated in 2014 for the section of Highway 12 East between Stacy’s Nursery and the west entrance of Haug Implement.

 While that project was being developed, other issues were identified that the reconditioning project could not address, said Weidemann. Those issues include lack of long-range corridor vision; inconsistent roadway design (4-lane gaps); drainage; intersection crashes; and multiple accesses.

The study was proposed to identify the issues and their causes, and provide some recommendations as to how to manage the corridor in the future.

The partners have hired the transportation engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson of St. Paul. The consultant will develop a working document that the partners can use as they consider future projects and developments along the corridor.

“It’s MnDOT’s hope we can reach a relatively consistent idea for what the future of this corridor should be and implement a vision and take it back to the city and county and see if they can buy in on it and if we have a vision for the corridor,’’ Weidemann said.

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