Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Oct. 18, 2021

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US 71 improvement projects in Willmar nearly complete

WILLMAR, Minn. — Several roadway and safety improvement projects along U.S. Highway 71 in Willmar are nearly complete, and all lanes will be open by the end of today, including the J-turn at County Road 90/37th Avenue Northeast, the median crossover at 41st Avenue, and the U-turn just north of County Road 24/23rd Street Northeast.

Additional work, including guardrail, erosion control and punch list items, will continue this week under traffic. Travelers may encounter brief lane/shoulder closures or heavy equipment entering/exiting the roadway.

A summary of the individual projects follows.

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 was constructed between the northbound and southbound lanes and a raised median separates eastbound and westbound lanes on CR 90 on both sides of the US 71/CR 90 intersection; however, crossbars are not 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 was partially opened. Previously, this was a right-in/right-out access to US 71, with no median crossover. Northbound traffic can now 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.

Culvert replacement at 48th Avenue

A new culvert was installed at 48th Avenue to improve drainage.

Safety improvements at CR 24

A U-turn just north of the CR 24 J-turn was paved, and a left-turn lane constructed to lead into the turn. Previously, it was a gravel U-turn restricted to emergency vehicle use. The U-turn now allows northbound travelers to turn to the south. There are no restrictions, all vehicles can use the U-turn.

In addition, a concrete walkway was 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 were not painted on US 71.

Pavement maintenance

Three miles of concrete pavement were 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 was removed and replaced. The surface was 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.

Additional project information

Benefits of the project include increased roadway safety, a smoother road surface and quieter ride, and enhanced pedestrian safety.

The project cost was $2.5 million and Duininck, Inc., of Prinsburg, Minn., was the contractor.

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Work zone travel

MnDOT advises travelers to always slow down when approaching every work zone, then navigate through with care and caution. Other reminders: 

  • Never enter a roadway that has been blocked with barriers or cones
  • 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 

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