Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Willmar Rail Connector & Industrial Access Project

Willmar Wye

About this project

Hwy 40 detour

Traffic Impacts

  • Hwy 40 is closed from CR 55 to CR 5 (red on the map).
  • Hwy 40 traffic is detoured on CR 55, US 12, CR 5.
  • All US Hwy 12 traffic is now using the realigned route (yellow on the map).
  • Old Hwy 12 closed May 17-28 to reconstruct the old Hwy 12/CR 5 intersection. NB/SB traffic only at the intersection - see attached map for local business access. One-way flagging operation during daytime hours.

Project Update

May 17, 2021: on the construction site this week
  • Continue stripping Hwy 40 bridge deck forms
  • Finish approach panel construction for the Hwy 40 bridge
  • Start bridge rail construction for the Hwy 40 bridge
  • Aggregate slope paving under the Hwy 40 bridge
  • Place aggreate base on Hwy 40
  • Place aggregate base and aggregate surfacing on 45th St
  • Finish placing culverts along 45th St
  • Place curb and gutter on 1st Avenue
  • Asphalt paving
    • 1st Avenue north of US 12
    • Sections of old US 12 that will remain in place
    • CR 55 between US 12 and Hwy 40
  • Old CR 55, north of US 12: grading, pipe installation and aggregate base
  • Begin reconstruction of old US 12 and CR 5 intersection
  • Continue crushing old pavements for use as aggregate base
  • Repair and install erosion control measures, place topsoil, and final stabilization

Aerial view of the new US 12

Aerial view of the new US 12 realignment, photo courtesy of Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission.

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. The rail line will connect the following two existing main track subdivisions. The Morris subdivision parallels Hwy 12 west of Willmar. The Marshall subdivision parallels Kandiyohi CR 55/CR 15 and Hwy 23 to the southwest.These subdivisions serve local, regional and national rail customers in the Northwest, Midwest, and southern United States.

Project Timeline

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