Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Willmar Rail Connector & Industrial Access Project

Willmar Wye

About this projectmap of Hwy 12 showing road open during most of 2020 and work zone of realignment of Hwy 12

Traffic Impacts

  • Hwy 40 detour
  • Hwy 40 is closed from CR 5 to just west of the Hawk Creek Crossing.
  • CR 55 is closed from 1st Ave on the north to the junction with CR 5 and Hwy 23 on the south.
  • Watch for construction trucks entering US 12 from borrow pits at west end of the project.
  • Do not enter or move work zone barriers.

Future Traffic Impacts

  • US Highway 12 Detour - 2020
  • US 12 will be open through most of the summer in 2020.
  • The US 12 detour will take place for a short time in fall 2020.

Project UpdatePreparing the west pier cap of the US 12 bridge for concrete.

On site the week of May 26, 2020

  • Shaping slopes and placing topsoil
  • Finishing construction of pier caps on the US 12 bridge
  • Muck excavation and backfill on CR 55 north of the new US 12
  • Proof rolling finished grade
  • Placing aggregate base
  • Stripping topsoil and grading on the new 45th St, north of US 12 and BNSF RR
  • Crushing old asphalt pavement for use as aggregate base
  • Installing erosion control measures, placing topsoil, and final stabilization

Next week

  • Shaping slopes and placing topsoil
  • Continue proof rolling finished grade
  • Continue placing aggregate base
  • Place concrete in remaining islands on the CR 5 and US 12 roundabout
  • Start abutment construction on the US 12 bridge
  • Backfill pier footings on US 12 bridge
  • Cleaning up and reshaping the borrow pit on the southeast corner of Hwy 40 and CR 55
  • Grading new 45th St
  • Crushing old asphalt pavement for use as aggregate base
  • Installing erosion control measures and final stabilization

Project Summary

Construct a new rail line on the west side of Willmar. The project includes the realignment of US 12 and the reconstruction of Hwy 40, including two new bridges.

Project Timeline

  • Start of road construction: summer 2019
  • Estimated end of road construction: fall 2021
  • Start of rail construction: spring 2021
  • Estimated end of rail construction: fall 2022


Design-Build Contracting Process

  • Roadway will use Design-Build contracting process
  • Design-build is a contracting process that brings designers and contractors together early in the detail design portion of a project. Willmar Wye is a design-build project. For more information visit the links below.
  • Railway final design and construction will be carried out by BNSF

Project Purpose

The Minnesota Department of Transportation and its partners Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), City of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission will add a rail connection between two existing BNSF railway lines and modify surrounding roadways to better move freight through the city of Willmar.

The Willmar Rail Connector and Industrial Park Access Project (Willmar Wye) will provide a direct connection between the Marshall and Morris Subdivisions of the BNSF rail network. Providing this direct connection will decrease the number of trains that need to pull into the rail yard in downtown Willmar. The project also includes a rail spur that will provide access to the city of Willmar's industrial park.

The purpose of the Wye project is to:

  • Provide a direct connection between the Marshall and Morris Subdivisions of the BNSF Railway freight rail network
  • Provide freight rail access to the City of Willmar's industrial park

Project Benefits

  • Improve safety for travelers by reducing at-grade crossing exposure
  • Increase multi-modal opportunities for shippers
  • Encourage economic growth
  • Improve quality of life
  • Delay and emissions savings for travelers (e.g. drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists) by reducing wait times for crossings to clear.
  • Reduce the number of trains traversing through downtown Willmar and the accompanying noise.

Regional Demands

Rail shipments of oil have grown sharply in regions, such as North Dakota’s Bakken energy fields,  that lack sufficient pipelines as alternatives.  Investments in the network are needed to allow network capacity to “catch up” with the new demand.  Production is reported to be approaching 1 million barrels a day with roughly 72 percent of that fuel transported by rail.  These trains are bound for refineries in the Gulf and locally within the Midwest region, while coal cars are bound for export terminals located both in the Great Lakes and on the West Coast.

Grain trains are also frequently delayed, reducing a farmer’s ability to manage market fluctuations and tempering profit margins.  By easing this choke point in Willmar, the project would add much needed capacity in this portion of the rail network.

The Minnesota Comprehensive Statewide Freight and Passenger Rail Plan (MnDOT, 2012) identified the Marshall Subdivision as a corridor that will need investment due to volume and capacity issues.

Project Partners-Contributions/Commitments

        Project partner
        BNSF Railway $16 million
        MnDOT $17.5 million
        Kandiyohi County $459,000 commitment
        City of Willmar $336,000 commitment of estimated right of way costs
        Kandiyohi/Willmar EDC $35,000 (for economic development)
        Local Road Improvement Program $3.77 million
        TIGER Grant (U.S. Department of Transportation) $10 million