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Highway 12 to be rerouted for Willmar railroad bypass project

WILLMAR -- U.S. Highway 12 will be rerouted south of its current location from approximately Seventh Avenue Northwest to just past Kandiyohi County Road 5, as part of the Willmar railroad bypass project. The decision was made about two weeks ago,...

WILLMAR - U.S. Highway 12 will be rerouted south of its current location from approximately Seventh Avenue Northwest to just past Kandiyohi County Road 5, as part of the Willmar railroad bypass project.
The decision was made about two weeks ago, after representatives from the city, county, MnDOT and BNSF Railway met several times to discuss the issue.
The rerouting of Highway 12 will eliminate the need for a complicated road crossing over the railroad, which would have included 30-foot-high retaining walls on both sides of the Highway 12 overpass.
“It is simpler, cheaper to construct,” said Bruce Peterson, Willmar Planning and Development director, as he gave an update on the project Thursday to a committee of the Willmar City Council.
The railroad bypass, often referred to as the Willmar wye, will be built between the BNSF main lines west of Willmar that go west-northwest to Morris and southwest to Marshall.
MnDOT and the county will be addressing any access issues for businesses and residents that arise due to the Highway 12 relocation, Peterson said during the Community Development Committee meeting. Now that a route has been chosen, work on the environmental review can begin. The Federal Railroad Administration will be in town in April. It hoped the FRA will let the project partners know how much environmental reporting will be needed.
Peterson said the project partners want permission to complete a categorical exclusion form, which is less intensive than an environmental assessment worksheet. The project has until September 2017 to finish the environmental review process in order to receive the $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation last year.
Discussion is also ongoing between the partners about BNSF’s portion of the project. Peterson shared information in his report that the railroad now wants to construct only one track, with the option of adding a second. The original project called for a double track.
“It is going to be a situation where the city, county and MnDOT are unified in our approach. The approach we’re taking is this is not the time to change the scope of the project,” Peterson said.
The concern is the Federal Railroad Administration might take back the $10 million TIGER grant if the scope of the project changes too much, Peterson said.

Related Topics: TRANSPORTATION
Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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