Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Willmar Rail Connector & Industrial Access Project

Willmar Wye

About this project

Public Hearing & Public Comment Period for EA/EAW

The Minnesota Department of Transportation held an open house and public hearing for the proposed Willmar Rail Connector & Industrial Access (Willmar Wye) Project on Thursday, February 23 from 5-7 pm at the Minnesota Department of Transportation office at 2505 Transportation Road in Willmar. A formal presentation began at 5:30 pm. The presentation was followed by time for public comments.

Copies of the EA/EAW are available for public viewing from February 6, 2017 through March 8, 2017 during business hours at MnDOT in Willmar and on the project website. The EA/EAW can also be viewed at the Willmar Public Library, MnDOT Library (St. Paul) and Environmental Conservation Library (Minneapolis).

Written comments on the EA/EAW can be mailed, prior to the close of the 30-day public comment period on March 8, 2017, to Paul Rasmussen, Project Manger, 2505 Transportation Road, Willmar, MN 56201-2207. Comments will also be accepted via e-mail to Paul Rasmussen.

Looking for more information? Click here to read additional information on the EA/EAW process, public comment period, public hearing and how to submit a comment before or after the public hearing.

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
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