Willmar Wye agreement nears finish line

WILLMAR -- The master agreement among the Willmar Wye project partners is nearing completion and MnDOT has sent the three shortlisted design and build firms requests for proposal to lead the multi-million dollar project through its years-long con...

Tribune file photoThe Willmar Wye project has been delayed while the master agreement remains in negotiations. The bypass project will allow trains to travel between the Marshall and Morris subdivision without having to come into downtown Willmar and change engines. This should reduce traffic disruptions and train noise.
Tribune file photo The parties are getting closer to signing the master agreement for the Willmar Wye project. The hope is to begin construction on the road portion next spring.
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WILLMAR - The master agreement among the Willmar Wye project partners is nearing completion and MnDOT has sent the three shortlisted design and build firms requests for proposal to lead the multi-million dollar project through its years-long construction schedule.

Paul Rasmussen, project manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation District 8, said it is just the final details being worked out in the master agreement, which is actually several agreements rolled into one massive document.

"We are hoping to get it all ready to go to the (Willmar) City Council and (Kandiyohi) County Board in August," Rasmussen said. "It is about nine agreements. We are really close."

Partners in the project are BNSF Railway, MnDOT, the city of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and the Kandiyohi County-City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

Because the agreement is so close to being final, MnDOT has moved forward with the road construction portion of the project. Requests for proposal were sent out to Duininck Inc., Hoffman Construction Company and Mathiowetz Construction Company. The three companies have until Sept. 12 to get their proposals back to MnDOT and have cost proposals in before Sept. 26. The opening of those cost proposals will take place on Sept. 26, and six to eight weeks later MnDOT will award the project to the chosen firm.


While the wye has been treated as one major project, Rasmussen said during construction it will actually be two. The road work, including the rerouting of U.S. Highway 12 and the building of new bridges, will be under MnDOT. The rail portion will be done by BNSF.

"At this point we're splitting it," Rasmussen said.

Construction on the road portion will begin in spring 2019, though some tree and building removal could still happen this winter. Crews will be working on the project during the construction seasons of 2019 and 2020, with completion in spring 2021. BNSF is scheduled to begin rail work in spring 2021 and finish in fall 2022, Rasmussen said.

The Willmar Wye, officially called the Willmar Rail Connector and Industrial Access Project, will construct a new rail line between the BNSF Morris Subdivision and the Marshall Subdivision tracks, allowing trains to go between the two without having to turn around in Willmar. Project benefits, according to MnDOT, will include a reduction of train traffic and noise in downtown Willmar. It will also encourage economic growth with the addition of a rail spur into the Willmar Industrial Park.

The entire project is estimated to cost over $47 million. A $10 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was awarded in 2015. BNSF will be contributing $16 million with MnDOT putting in another $17.5 million. Kandiyohi County has committed $459,000, with the city of Willmar contributing rights of way worth around $336,000. The Local Road Improvement Program has put $3.77 million into the project.

The Local Road Improvement Program provides state transportation funding assistance to cities, counties and townships for the construction and reconstruction of local roads with regional significance and with safety improvements to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes.

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 or direct 320-214-4373.

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