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Study will guide U.S. Highway 12 issues

WILLMAR — Consultants and three government entities are drafting goals and objectives to guide future land use and transportation issues along the U.S. Highway 12 corridor.

Partners in the study — consultants Short Elliott Hendrickson of St. Paul, the City of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation — drafted the goals and objectives after receiving significant local comment during five meetings with U.S. Highway 12 stakeholders.

The study’s vision statement, five goals and numerous objectives for each goal apply to the portion of U.S. Highway 12 from approximately 45th Street Southeast on the east to County Road 5 on the west.

The study says the highway is seen as a critical east-west transportation corridor in west central Minnesota that serves as a vital link for centers of trade and employment for residents, businesses and commuters.

The consultants, working with a technical committee representing all the four partners, drafted the goals and objectives, said Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services.

Peterson discussed the goals and objectives with the City Council’s Community Development Committee Thursday afternoon. He said the consultant asked that the goals and objectives be brought to a council committee for review.

“I think that these goals and objectives for the study very well address what we’re trying to get out of this process. We are not going to get engineering plans out of this process. That was never the intent,’’ Peterson said.

“What we’re trying to get is a policy blueprint to guide future decisions regarding transportation and land use in the Highway 12 corridor. That will allow the city to deal with some funding opportunities in the future,’’ he said.

“If there are some additional highway dollars that become available, we’ll have a plan in place and that makes us more fundable for some projects,’’ he said. “It will also show a number of different options for changes within the corridor.’’

The goals are:

- Preserve and enhance Highway 12 and intersecting roadways in a manner that improves safety and mobility. “That’s always got to be the top consideration,’’ said Peterson. He said the highway is there to safely move traffic. Among the objectives, the study recommends further evaluation of the need and effectiveness of traffic control at key intersections with County Road 9, Lakeland Drive, Seventh Street Southwest, 10th Street Southwest, Industrial Drive and County Road 5.

-Increase the connection between transportation considerations and the land development regulatory process. This means meeting transportation standards as site plans are reviewed.

- Plan, design and construct transportation and land use improvements in the corridor that respect and reflect the aesthetic character, historical and cultural context, and values of Willmar citizens. Peterson said stakeholders favored the compactness of the corridor and the partners did not hear a demand from citizens for a 4-lane corridor through town.

- Seek opportunities to encourage expansion of pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Peterson said this will be done in conjunction with the bicycling and pedestrian plan the city adopted two years ago.

- Implement the vision through strategic funding, and objective and definitive decision-making among the partners.

The partners will receive a document that will guide decision-making, Peterson said.

“It’s not going to say this section of the highway should be 4-lane or this section should be 3-lane or you should have a turn lane at the end of every block. It’s not going to have that type of transportation specifics,’’ he said.

“It’s going to say here’s what we need to accomplish as this corridor ages, as the uses expand within the corridor, and as traffic increases in the corridor because of the changing land use,’’ he said. “It will be a very good document to tie together land use decisions and transportation development decisions.’’

Committee members recommended no changes and agreed to receive the proposed study as information. The council will receive the report at the Monday night meeting.

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