Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Willmar Rail Connector & Industrial Access Project

Willmar Wye

About this project

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 multimodal 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 schedule & milestones

  • DRAFT roadway layout completion: November 2016
  • Submission of DRAFT Environmental Assessment (EA) for federal agency review: November 2016
  • Public hearing: February 2017
  • Bid (design-build) letting: December 2017
  • Start of construction: Spring 2018
  • Project completion: Fall 2020

 

Project partners-contributions/commitments

Project partner
Contribution/commitment
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