Safety and traffic
The primary purpose of the proposed project is to improve corridor performance/mobility and safety. Hwy 23 is a medium priority interregional corridor, on which travel speeds should average 55 mph for a one hour trip. Safety of the corridor can be improved with the reduction and relocation of access locations. Travel speeds on Hwy 23 will continue to decline as residential and commercial areas continue to grow in the area. Congestion will also increase.
Provide for future development
The proposed improvements would address several issues along the corridor and within the project area. View/print issues map (PDF). Low density commercial development is generally located on the west side of Hwy 23/71, and large parcels of open developable properties lie on both sides of the highway. Several large parcels of land are available to accommodate new business growth in the corridor and can accommodate large commercial developments; however, existing on-site utilities are currently not adequate to serve prospective growth. Existing utility replacement and extension of city sewer and water utilities to properties in the area is imminent, and land available for development is expected to convert to urban uses. Over time, this land use conversion will affect the local and regional transportation system and require changes to control traffic at intersections and preserve the long-term safety and mobility along Hwy 23/71.
Connect previous Hwy 23/71 projects
The proposed project is located between two recently completed sections of Hwy 23. The shared segment of Hwy 23/71, with its at-grade intersections, represents an opportunity to connect these two freeway/expressway sections with improved intersection safety and access management, consistent with the IRC performance goals established for the medium priority corridor.
The need to manage access on the Hwy 23/71 corridor has been considered by MnDOT since the planning and construction of the Willmar Bypass. As segments of the larger bypass project have been accomplished, including the completion of the four-lane segment to the divergence of the two highways north of town, points of access have remained for area businesses and local road connections. Existing access conditions exceed MnDOT’s recommended access standards, which allow one access point per mile.
Safety was evaluated both along the Hwy 23/71 corridor and at the intersections within the project area. The Hwy 23/71 corridor crash and severity rate averages are lower than MnDOT – District 8 averages; however, the severity rate is higher than the statewide average for similar types of facilities.
The present County Road 90 crossing of Hwy 23/71 is experiencing safety issues because of growing traffic volumes (school and civic center traffic) and the close proximity to the high-speed merge/diverge intersection with Hwy 294 (Business 71 route). To function more effectively and safely for the long-term needs of Hwy 23/71, the County Road 90 and Hwy 23/71 at-grade intersection needs to be eliminated.