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 2019 and work zone of realignment of Hwy 12

Traffic Impacts

  • Hwy 40 detour began July 22, 2019, and remains in effect through June 2020.
  • Watch for construction trucks entering Hwy 12 from borrow pits at west end of the project.
  • Reduce speed along Hwy 12 between east and west ends of the project.
  • US Hwy 12 will be open to traffic during 2019.

Future Traffic Impacts

Project Update

  • December 11, 2019:
  • The contractor has been constructing the bridge approach embankments of US 12 and Hwy 40, along with CR 55. As these embankments are being built they are also placing topsoil and installing erosion control measures.
  • Pipes continue to be installed throughout the project.
  • Erosion control, grass seeding and winter stabilization are taking place.
    • Next:
    • Pipes will continue to be installed throughout the project.
    • Erosion control, grass seeding and winter stabilization will continue to take place.
    • Construction will be suspended from Dec. 22 through Jan. 5 for the holidays.
    • Construction will slow down as we move into the winter.
    • By January we will be working only on the new bridges over the railroad line.

Project Summary

Construct a new rail line on the west side of Willmar. The project includes the realignment of Hwy 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