The proposed improvements would address several issues along the corridor and within the project area (see Issues map).
Provide for future development
Low density commercial development is generally located on the west side of Highway 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 Highway 23/71.
Connect previous Highway 23/71 projects
The proposed project is located between two recently completed sections of Highway 23. The shared segment of Highway 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 Highway 23/71 corridor has been considered by Mn/DOT 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 Mn/DOT’s recommended access standards, which allow one access point per mile.
Safety was evaluated both along the Highway 23/71 corridor and at the intersections within the project area. The Highway 23/71 corridor crash and severity rate averages are lower than Mn/DOT – 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 Highway 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 Highway 294 (Business 71 route). To function more effectively and safely for the long-term needs of Highway 23/71, the County Road 90 and Highway 23/71 at-grade intersection needs to be eliminated.