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Kandiyohi County to see major state road work over the next 10 years

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is planning on investing more than $500 million into District 8, which includes Kandiyohi County and 11 other southwest Minnesota counties, over the next 10 years. This will include major projects on state Highway 23, state Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 71 in Kandiyohi County.

Highway 12 Litchfield Ave in Willmar.
A portion of U.S. Highway 12 through Willmar, including the area shown here on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, is set to undergo resurfacing in 2028, according to the 10-year Capital Highway Investment Plan from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Other Kandiyohi County thoroughfares, including state Highway 23, state Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 71, will see work sooner.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — If all goes to plan, Kandiyohi County could see major investment in its state highway network over the next 10 years.

Based on the District 8 2023-2032 Capital Highway Investment Plan from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, work is planned on several major Kandiyohi County thoroughfares including state Highway 23, state Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 71.

Tony Pfau, MnDOT planner, presented the plan at the Sept. 19 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board. He briefly went over each project to take place in the county.

MnDOT is planning on investing $564 million in the district over the next decade. This will include 516 miles of road resurfaced or reconstructed, 24 bridges repaired or replaced, 9 standalone highway safety projects and 24 projects with improvements for bikers across the district, which includes 12 counties in southwest Minnesota.

"This is good information for us to have," said Commissioner Corky Berg, County Board chair.

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The first major Kandiyohi County project on the list is the construction of the Highway 23 south gap project, which will expand the highway to four lanes between New London and Paynesville. The project is estimated to cost around $40.7 million, to be funded through the Corridors of Commerce Program.

"We are going to let that this year," with construction to start in 2023, Pfau said. The north gap between Paynesville and Richmond is already under construction.

The remaining on/off ramps for Highway 23 at the junction of Kandiyohi County Roads 55/5/15 just south of Willmar are also listed for construction in 2023.

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The Investment Plan originally had the Highway 23 and Highway 9 safety improvements in New London listed, but that has been pushed back. A J-turn was to be constructed, but community pushback is having MnDOT take another look.

"We kicked that out to 2024," Pfau said. "We are still doing some outreach in New London."

Also to be constructed in 2024 is a left-turn lane on Highway 23 at the intersection with Kandiyohi County Road 1, northeast of Raymond.

A left-turn lane will also be built on Highway 71 at the intersection of Kandiyohi County Road 3. Pfau said both of those projects will be paid for using special freight funding.

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All the projects in the investment plan between 2023 to 2026 are considered programmed projects with funding commitments made and program delivery in progress, meaning they most like will move forward and be constructed.

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Projects listed from 2027 to 2032 are called planned projects but are not yet committed.

The next investment project for Kandiyohi County isn't scheduled until 2028, but it will see 1.2 miles of U.S. Highway 12 within Willmar being resurfaced. The project will go from 11th Street Southwest to Sixth Street Southeast and include upgrading sidewalks to meet American with Disabilities Act standards.

Another planned project for 2028 is the resurfacing of both the Highway 71 southbound lane between the south end of the Highway 23 bypass to the Business 71 split, and the Highway 23 northbound lane from the Business 71 split to the north junction of Highway 23 (Belgrade/Spicer split).

Highway 23 from County Road 5 to the start of the Highway 23 bypass will also be resurfaced. All totaled it will be 8.2 miles of resurfaced road.

Highway 40 west of Willmar
The resurfacing of State Highway 40 from Chippewa County Road 4 to Willmar is on the Capital Highway Investment Plan for 2030. The Kandiyohi County Board is hoping the Minnesota Department of Transportation will consider adding wider shoulders to the highway for vehicle safety.
Shelby Lindrud / West Central Tribune

Highway 40 from Chippewa County Road 4 to Willmar is planned for resurfacing in 2030. The project will be 19 miles long.

The final Kandiyohi County project in the 10-year investment plan is the resurfacing of Highway 71 from Minnesota Highway 7 to Willmar, set for 2032.

The county commissioners did share concerns they had about the safety of Highway 40 into Willmar. The two-lane road is narrow with minimal shoulders, and with increased agriculture traffic the commissioners are hoping MnDOT will take a look at some improvements. This might include widening the shoulders.

"I would implore you to bring back to MnDOT our concerns for our constituents and our families that use that road every day," said Commissioner Steve Gardner.

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Pfau said he would let the leadership at MnDOT District 8 know the board's worries. The condition of Highway 40 is well-known and is regularly discussed at transportation meetings.

"It is on our radar," Pfau said.

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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