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Major project: Crash-prone intersection near Willmar prompts overpass plan

One of the most dangerous intersections in the area, Highway 23 and Kandiyohi County Road 5 near Willmar, is slated for a major renovation that includes a bridge over Highway 23. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR –– One of the most dangerous intersections in the region is targeted for a significant reconstruction project.

Kandiyohi County Road 5, which crosses state Highway 23 southwest of Willmar, has a crash rate that is higher than expected and the Minnesota Department of Transportation said it exceeds the “critical crash rate.”

The high-speed intersection also has the “highest crash cost” for MnDOT’s District 8 in a 10-year period, said Ryan Barney, traffic engineer for the District 8 office in Willmar.

That crash-cost rate is the calculation MnDOT uses to help quantify the effect a crash may have on the community, said Barney.

From 2003-12 there were 31 crashes at the intersection, including two fatalities.

The site has been a “problematic intersection over the years” with a “way higher crash rate” than a normal intersection, said Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

Because of the crash history, extra signage has been installed to help warn drivers and try to prevent crashes.

But Barney said the crash data that placed the intersection into a “sustained crash location” makes it eligible for highway safety improvement program funds that will take the preventative measures to a greater level by constructing an overpass that will eliminate cross-traffic crashes.

MnDOT and the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners are working together on a plan to build an overpass that will take County Road 5’s northbound and southbound traffic over Highway 23.

The commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding this week that lays out the parameters of the $2 million overpass project, which will coincide with the county’s $12 million project to rebuild County Road 5 south of Willmar.

The memorandum of understanding does not legally bind the two entities to the project, but if it does proceed, the overpass bridge is slated for construction in 2016 with completion in 2017.

Commissioner Doug Reese, who knows the families of the two individuals killed at that intersection, was quick to support the agreement with MnDOT. “I’ll gladly make the motion,” said Reese.

Danielson told the commissioners on Tuesday that the crash study, availability of federal safety funds and timing of the County Road 5 reconstruction project presents a “unique opportunity” for the two entities to cooperate on the overpass to improve public safety.

If Highway 23 is ever developed into a four-lane road, Danielson said the County Road 5 overpass bridge will fit into that design.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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