WILLMAR - Drivers in Willmar will have plenty of road projects to be aware of this summer, especially on the west side of the city. Orange barrels and road closure signs are already popping up around town, with more projects to come later this summer.
"The west end of town will be a mess," Willmar Public Works Director Sean Christensen said.
Work is beginning this week on 19th Avenue Southwest, where Kandiyohi County will be overlaying from First Street South to County Road 5, "where it will tie into the new roundabout," Christensen said.
While the county is in charge of most of the road work on 19th Avenue Southwest, the city is responsible for the pedestrian ramps, some curb repair and the construction of a 10-foot-wide bituminous path from 15th Street to 21st Street, replacing the current sidewalk.
"Nineteenth will be done largely under traffic," Christensen said, meaning road closures should be at a minimum.
Eventually, this summer 15th Street Southwest, from Trott Avenue to 19th Avenue will also be under construction, as the city completes an overlay project there. A start date for that project is still to be determined.
Adding to the traffic woes, the intersection of 19th Avenue Southwest and County Road 5 will be closed starting June 17, as work on the roundabout begins. A detour will be in place, going through 22nd Street Southwest, up on to Willmar Avenue and back on to County Road 5.
"That detour will be impacting some of our projects," Christensen said.
Work will also begin on the roundabout that will eventually be the intersection of County Road 5 and the rerouted U.S. Highway 12, as part of the Willmar Wye project. This construction will impact traffic on that portion of County Road 5.
Also taking place on the west side is the overlay of the paths through the Swansson Field Recreational Complex, which will impact the use of those paths during construction.
The one major project happening, but not on the west side, is the overlay of Civic Center Drive Northeast, from U.S. Highway 71 to County Road 9. It will start soon, with Christensen hoping to have it wrapped up by the end of August.
"My idea is to get it done prior to school starting," Christensen said.
Those wondering about the orange barrels in and around downtown Willmar, Christensen said it is a project by Centerpoint Energy. They are installing a new six-inch steel gas line.
Christensen also said public works crews are getting out and starting to fill the many potholes and cracks left behind from this winter. For the larger holes, the city will probably end up hiring a contractor to assist.
"This has been a banner season statewide," for potholes, Christensen said.
While this construction season is a busy one, the city and county will be getting a lot of work done.
"Minnesota has a short construction window," so many projects need to be squeezed into only a few months, Christensen said. "We're doing nearly $5 million in projects."
While all these projects are happening, Christensen is asking for drivers' patience and understanding. Also, if it is possible, drivers should avoid the impacted areas, reducing the amount of traffic going through work zones.
"Slow down and pay attention," Christensen said.
And while it has nothing to do with road construction and detours, Christensen has another seasonal reminder for Willmar residents:
"Please don't blow your grass clippings into the street."