Improvements slated for dangerous stretch of Hwy. 71
NEW LONDON — A dangerous stretch of U.S. Highway 71 north of Willmar, where fatalities have happened at high-traffic intersections in recent years, will be improved with a $6 million project scheduled to begin next spring.
Questions about the approximately nine-mile project zone were answered Thursday by Minnesota Department of Transportation officials during an open house.
"When it's done, it's a 20-year life pavement," said Alan Setrum, engineering specialist with MnDOT's District 8 office in Willmar. "So it should be a nice roadway when it's done."
The projects begins at the junction of state Highway 23 and extends to just north of state Highway 9.
Traffic will be detoured during the entire project, which will begin in mid-April and is expected to last about 4½ months.
The project includes constructing left-turn lanes at six key intersections, including ones where fatalities have occurred in the past.
"When we're done, traffic turning left will have their own lane," Setrum said.
That means motorists traveling straight on the 60 mph road "won't have to either go around on a bypass lane or swerve out of the way. They'll be able to continue with their direction of traffic," he said, adding that the threat of "people not paying attention" will be removed.
The turn lanes will be at intersections with Kandiyohi County roads 27, 10, 29, 40 and 148/48 and state Highway 9.
A right-turn lane and a bypass lane will be added at the county landfill site and the right-turn lane at County Road 10 will be lengthened.
The grade at County Road 40 will be raised 8 to 9 feet to accommodate installation of a 12-by-12-foot pedestrian underpass that is part of a recreation trail from New London to Sibley State Park.
Streetlights will also be added at some intersections, including the road to Sibley State Park, to improve safety, Setrum said.
The entire stretch of highway will be resurfaced, with existing asphalt recycled.
According to Setrum, the old surface will be removed, injected with oil, laid back down on the road and then covered with four inches of new asphalt.
Setrum said access to the businesses, including the landfill, will be kept open during the project, but through traffic will be detoured onto state Highway 23, County Road 2 and state Highway 55. Truck and commercial traffic will be restricted to Highways 23 and 55.
OMG Midwest Inc. is the general contractor for the project.