WILLMAR — All lanes impacted by the U.S. Highway 71 safety and road improvements north of Willmar are now open as Duininck Inc. of Prinsburg, the project contractor, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8 finish up most of the project. Improvement areas included the J-turn at Kandiyohi County Road 90/37th Avenue Northeast, the median crossover at 41st Avenue and the U-turn just north of Kandiyohi County Road 24/23rd Street Northeast, according to a news release from MnDOT.

The traffic cones lining U.S. Highway 71 north- and southbound were removed by end of day Monday. Additional work, including guardrail, erosion control and punch list items, will continue this week under traffic. Travelers may encounter brief lane/shoulder closures or heavy equipment entering and exiting the roadway. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
The traffic cones lining U.S. Highway 71 north- and southbound were removed by end of day Monday. Additional work, including guardrail, erosion control and punch list items, will continue this week under traffic. Travelers may encounter brief lane/shoulder closures or heavy equipment entering and exiting the roadway. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
Construction began in early July. While most of the work is completed, guardrail, erosion control and small items still left on the project punch list will be completed under traffic through the rest of the week. There may be brief lane/shoulder closures or heavy equipment entering/exiting the roadway as work wraps up.

An overview of the nearly completed new J-turn at U.S. Highway 71 and County Road 90. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
An overview of the nearly completed new J-turn at U.S. Highway 71 and County Road 90. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
A J-turn was constructed at the intersection of Highway 71 and County Road 90 to reduce conflict at the intersection. Studies of J-turns have shown a 70% reduction in fatalities and a 42% decrease in injury crashes at J-turn intersections, the news release said.

Also at the intersection is a new concrete walkway between the north and southbound lanes, along with a raised median separating the eastbound and westbound lanes. However, there will be no crossbars painted on the roadway, according to the release.

The J-turn at County Road 24/23rd Street, near the Kandiyohi County Law Enforcement Center and Health and Human Services building, has been completed. The U-turn that was once just for emergency vehicles has been paved and open to general traffic and a left-turn lane has been constructed leading into the turn.

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A concrete walkway between the northbound and southbound lanes was added to connect with the walking path on 23rd Street Northeast to the east and County Road 24 on the west. Crossbars were not painted.

This aerial shot shows an overview of the nearly completed new median crossover at 41st Avenue and U.S. Highway 71 in Willmar. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
This aerial shot shows an overview of the nearly completed new median crossover at 41st Avenue and U.S. Highway 71 in Willmar. Contributed Minnesota Department of Transportation
The Highway 71 improvements also included partial opening of the median at 41st Avenue to allow northbound traffic to turn left onto 41st Avenue and the addition of a new culvert at 48th Avenue to improve drainage. Three miles of concrete pavement was also repaired from just north of Point Lake to the far south end by Willmar Lake.

The entire project cost $2.5 million. MnDOT received funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program for the construction of the County Road 90 J-turn.