Minnesota Department of Transportation

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June 4, 2021

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US 71 improvement projects in Willmar postponed until July 6

WILLMAR, Minn. — The start date for several roadway and safety improvement projects along U.S. Highway 71 in Willmar has been postponed until July 6. The projects were originally scheduled to get underway June 7. The contractor has elected to start later; however, the project completion date remains at Sept. 3.

The US 71 work zone will extend from Kandiyohi County Road 24 to Kandiyohi County Road 27. Travelers are encouraged to allow extra time for travel along the US 71 corridor throughout the summer months. A summary of the individual projects follows, and work areas are illustrated on the attached map.

Traffic impacts

  • Northbound and southbound traffic will each be reduced to a single lane.
  • Temporary detours will be in place during a portion of the J-turn project and during concrete repair work.
  • Roads along the project route will be closed at various times during construction.
  • Neighborhoods with only one entry/exit (such as, north side of Point Lake) will always have access
  • CR 24 and CR 25 will not be closed at the same time.

Reduced conflict intersection (J-turn) at CR 90

MnDOT received safety funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to build a J-turn at US 71 and CR 90. A J-turn at this location can address severe crashes by making it safer for vehicles to cross and merge by decreasing the number of lanes they need to cross at one time. Studies show a 70 percent reduction in fatalities and a 42 percent reduction in injury crashes where J-turns are used.

In addition, a concrete walkway will be constructed between the northbound and southbound lanes and a raised median will separate eastbound and westbound lanes on CR 90 on both sides of the US 71/CR 90 intersection; however, crossbars will not be painted on US 71.

To learn how a J-turn works and review the safety benefits of a J-turn, visit MnDOT’s Reduced Conflict Intersections web pages.

Median construction at 41st Avenue

The median at 41st Avenue will be partially opened. Currently, this is a right-in/right-out access to US 71, with no median crossover. Following construction, northbound traffic will be able to turn left from US 71 and go westbound on 41st Avenue. Vehicles that are eastbound on 41st Avenue will not be able to crossover onto northbound US 71.

During construction, the 41st Avenue intersection with US 71 will be closed for two weeks. Homes and businesses on the west side of US 71 can be reached from CR 90 (37th Avenue) when 41st Avenue is closed.

Culvert replacement at 48th Avenue

A new culvert will be installed at 48th Avenue to improve drainage. During construction, the 48th Avenue intersection with US 71 will be closed for one day. Homes and businesses on the west side of US 71 can be reached from the north end of the frontage road.

Safety improvements at CR 24

A U-turn just north of the CR 24 J-turn will be paved, and a left-turn lane constructed to lead into the turn. Currently, it is a gravel U-turn restricted to emergency vehicle use. Once paved, the U-turn will allow northbound travelers to turn to the south. There will then be no restrictions, all vehicles will be able to use the U-turn.
In addition, a concrete walkway will be constructed between the northbound and southbound lanes to connect to the walking path on 23rd Street Northeast to the east and CR 24 to the west. Crossbars will not be painted on US 71.

Pavement maintenance

Three miles of concrete pavement will be repaired – the southbound lane from just north of Point Lake, where the concrete pavement starts, to the far south end by Willmar Lake. Deteriorated concrete will be removed and replaced. The surface will be refinished using a process known as diamond grinding. Diamond grinding is like using sandpaper on wood in that it provides a smoother surface and as a result, a quieter ride.

During repair work, the US 71 southbound lane segment near the US 71/Hwy 23 split will be detoured for two weeks. The detour route uses CR 27, CR 9, Hwy 23.

Work zone travel

MnDOT advises travelers to always: 

  • Slow down when approaching every work zone, then navigate through with care and caution
  • Stay alert; work zones constantly change
  • Watch for workers and slow-moving equipment
  • Obey posted speed limits; fine for a work zone violation is $300
  • Minimize distractions behind the wheel
  • Be patient; expect delays, especially during peak travel times