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Last-minute change made to intersection design

The project to revamp the intersection on North Business 71, Kandiyohi County Road 24 and 23rd Street is getting a last-minute change. An access road to allow emergency vehicles to get across the four-lane highway in less distance was added to the plan Friday. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- A misunderstanding or miscommunication between three government entities that are involved with a project to create a safer intersection near the Kandiyohi County law enforcement building has been resolved.

The result is a last-minute design change that will benefit all three entities and improve public safety.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, city of Willmar and Kandiyohi County are sharing the cost to revamp the intersection on North Business 71, Kandiyohi County Road 24 and 23rd Street. The project includes eliminating an east-west median that had crossed the four-lane highway. The median had been the site of numerous accidents.

After a series of meetings and multiple design plans during the last couple years, the three entities agreed to a design plan to close the median.

Construction began this fall and is about two weeks away from completion.

But as the new road design started taking shape, several individuals noticed something missing: An access road that would allow emergency vehicles to have a straight shot across the four-lane highway.

Last week, after being contacted by several individuals, including law enforcement officials, MnDOT District 8 Traffic Engineer Jon Henslin acknowledged there was "some confusion" about whether the emergency crossover road was included in the plan or not.

"There was a communication breakdown on that," said County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

Danielson said the emergency access had been discussed at one point, but believed there was a consensus from the partners not to include it.

Maps of the plan, without the emergency road, were approved by the three entities without the issue of the emergency road being raised.

But city and county law enforcement leaders had thought the emergency road was going to be part of the plan and expressed concern when it wasn't. The law enforcement center is located on the east side of the highway. Without a quick way across, officers responding to an emergency would have to drive south to Civic Center Drive and then north on Highway 71 and west of County Road 24 to get to places like Eagle's Landing or the golf course.

"The sheriff was always expecting it (the emergency road)," said Danielson.

As soon as they got the call and heard about the concerns from law enforcement, MnDOT reacted quickly, said Henslin.

MnDOT designed a plan to construct a 20-foot-wide, gravel emergency access road about 750 feet north of the old median.

MnDOT met with the city and county Friday morning and after a five-minute meeting got approval to move ahead.

The county sheriff and city police captain "were real pleased" with the plan, said Henslin.

Not only that, Henslin said the MnDOT maintenance crews were also pleased with the addition of the access road. Turns out, they had also wanted the crossover road to shorten the distance snowplows will have to travel when clearing the additional lanes that are being created to replace the median.

Henslin said "two problems" are being solved by the last-minute change.

"It really was no problem to come up with this solution. And in the long run, it'll be what's the best for everyone," said Henslin. "We've got a good plan going."

The change order is estimated to cost each of the three entities $5,000 to $7,000.

Carolyn Lange

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

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