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Official opening of new Highway 12 delayed until spring

The new alignment of Highway 12 on the west side of Willmar, part of the Willmar Wye project, will not be open this fall as hoped. Early snow storms caused a delay in work, causing the Minnesota Department of Transportation to push back the opening of the new road way until spring.

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The single-lane roundabout on Kandiyohi County Road 5 in Willmar is planned to be realigned with the new Highway 12 as part of the Willmar Wye project. The complete opening of the realigned Highway 12 is postponed until the spring due to the arrival of winter weather. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Editor's note: An incorrect reference to a Kandiyohi County road has been corrected to Minnesota Highway 40. County Roads 5 and 55 are part of the project area.

WILLMAR β€” The early arrival of winter in Willmar has put an end to major construction on the Willmar Wye project.

The plan had been to open the new alignment of U.S. Highway 12 on the west side of Willmar this fall. However, the first snowstorm in late October put work about two weeks behind schedule. The latest snowfall earlier this week caused MnDOT to make the call to move the construction site into winter shutdown mode.

While most of the new portion of 12 is complete, the connections to the rest of the highway have not been finished. MnDOT did not want to start something they would not be able to finish.

"We did not want to take that chance," said Paul Rasmussen, MnDOT project manager.

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Colder weather makes it more difficult to lay asphalt or paint traffic lines on the pavement, which is why road work usually slows down in the winter. There will still be some work on the Wye road construction over the next several months.

"We'll have some work on (the Minnesota Highway 40) bridge this winter," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said he and his staff are working on trying to shorten the detour currently on Highway 40, perhaps by using some of the new Highway 12. A decision on that could be coming next week.

"We still need to get approval," Rasmussen said.

County Road 55, which has been closed from 1st Avenue to the junction with state Highway 23 and County Road 5, should be reopened to traffic soon.

The road construction portion of the Willmar Wye is set to be completed by July 2, with BNSF Railway starting the new track construction earlier in the spring of 2021.

The new rail track will link BNSF's Morris and Marshall Subdivision tracks. This will allow trains to travel between them without having to turn engines around in Willmar. The goal of the project is to reduce the number of trains coming into Willmar, decrease train noise and long waits at rail crossings and improve safety.

The project is estimated to cost around $47 million and is a private-public partnership between BNSF Railway, Kandiyohi County, the city of Willmar, MnDOT and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

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In the weekly update on the project, MnDOT is reminding drivers the area remains a construction site and roads will remain closed and not maintained and there will continue to be unfished areas and construction equipment parked throughout the site. Drivers should be cautious when traveling around the construction area.

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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