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Planning gets underway for complex reconstruction of County Road 5

WILLMAR -- Residents along the northwest stretch of Kandiyohi County Road 5 got their first glimpse last week of proposed improvements slated to start next year.

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The improvements to County Road 5 will replace the old two-foot shoulders with new shoulders that are six feet wide and safer for foot and bike traffic. The road will become wider overall, with adjustments in a handful of areas to soften curves and improve geometrics for traffic safety. (Briana Sanchez | Tribune)

WILLMAR -- Residents along the northwest stretch of Kandiyohi County Road 5 got their first glimpse last week of proposed improvements slated to start next year.

When it’s finished, the entire 3.1-mile section past Norway, Middle and Games Lakes will have a smooth new surface, wider shoulders and a bike and pedestrian trail, making it better for motorists and safer and more convenient for the many bikers and pedestrians who frequent the lakeshore road.

That’s the ultimate goal -- a better user experience that reflects current-day demands, according to Mel Odens, Kandiyohi County Public Works director.

“The public expects us to maintain our roads and they expect us to build roads to meet the needs of the public,” he said.

The Public Works Department still has considerable work to do before the first shovelful of dirt is turned over next summer. Staff must refine the design, work out details such as easements and brush clearing, and conduct cultural resource and archaeological surveys.

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“We’re just starting the process right now,” said Jeremy Pfeifer, assistant county engineer.

A recent open house gave the public a chance to learn about the county’s plans for the road, ask questions and view preliminary drawings.

As road projects go, County Road 5 is a complex undertaking. The stretch slated for reconstruction, from County Road 40 at the south end up to Minnesota Highway 9 on the north end, is bordered by lakes and, on the northeast side, by Sibley State Park. And with approximately 200 residences plus Games Lake County Park within the construction zone, traffic disruption is inevitable.

Pfeifer said it has been one of the more challenging projects to design and plan for.

“It’s definitely one of the tightest corridors,” he said. “We’re trying to make it all work. We’re trying to keep everybody’s best interests in mind.”

To help reduce the impact on local and park traffic, construction will take place in three phases next summer, from July to November. The road will remain gravel over the winter, followed by paving in the spring of 2018. The final step, paving of the bike and pedestrian trail, will be later that summer.

County officials say the road is due for improvements. The surface is rough and increasingly costly to maintain, Odens said.

As the lakeside neighborhood becomes more urbanized, county officials also have seen a growing need to address overall safety and recreational use. The average daily traffic count on the road is 840 but goes considerably higher in summer.

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The improvements to County Road 5 will replace the old two-foot shoulders with new shoulders that are six feet wide and safer for foot and bike traffic. The road will become wider overall, with adjustments in a handful of areas to soften curves and improve geometrics for traffic safety.

The new paved trail along the east side of the road will provide additional safety for pedestrians and bikers, as well as recreational appeal for local residents and visitors to Games Lake County Park. Four crossings will enable walkers and bikers to cross the road at designated spots.

The trail is part of the countywide bike and trail plan and will mesh with the trails around Sibley State Park, Odens said.

“This was an identified need,” he said. “We’re trying to take opportunities we can to fulfill the expectations of the public.”

Preliminary estimates put the cost of the project at around $2 million. It’s eligible for a combination of state, federal and local funding, along with separate federal funding that will cover much of the trail construction.

In a separate piece to the project, Kandiyohi County also will reconfigure the entrance to Games Lake County Park to better accommodate traffic flow and parking for campers and boats.

So far, the reaction to the proposed County Road 5 project has been positive, said Odens and Pfeifer.

“People have been interested and that’s good,” Odens said.

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