Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Nov. 25, 2002

Howard Lake still out of reach for Hwy 12 stoplight

By Lynda Jensen

A long-sought-after stoplight is still out of reach for Howard Lake, said Assistant Traffic Engineer Tom Dumont of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

In the past, the city has tried many different ways to obtain a stoplight, but has failed to meet the minimum requirements set by the state for it.

What is the criteria?

Stoplights are constructed based on state law that strictly regulates whether one is installed or not, Dumont said.

The criteria are called "warrants," and set forth exactly what must be met before a stoplight is installed, Dumont said.

The warrants are set by state law, not by MnDOT, he said.

For example, one of the warrants that may be met is if there are five or more "correctable" accidents per year, Dumont said.

Correctable means that the crash would have been prevented by a stoplight, he said. An example of a correctable crash is a "right angle" crash, or what is typically known as a T-bone crash. These are generally fairly serious, he said.

Warrants include some of the following, determined by engineering studies:

· the number of crashes per year,

· amount of traffic coming from side streets,

· delays to peak hour traffic,

· speed and volume of traffic during an eight-hour time frame

· pedestrian volume

· conditions of school crossing foot traffic

Regarding pedestrian volume, the criteria dictates that two needs must be met:

1. the pedestrian volume must be 100 or more people for each of any four hours, or 190 or more during any one hour, and

2. There are fewer than 60 gaps per hour in the traffic stream of adequate length to allow pedestrians to cross during the same period when the pedestrian volume criterion is satisfied.

The last push for a stoplight was in the spring, for a light located at Wright County Road 6 (on the east end of town) and Highway 12 ­ pressed by State Sen. Steve Dille-R (Dassel), and prompted by Jim Ittel of Ittel's Meats.

This did not succeed.

"We found it was close to, but not meeting signal warrants (criteria)," Dumont said of the city, according to a study done by MnDOT in February 2002.

In fact, a letter from Transportation District Engineer Bob Busch indicates that MnDOT actually thought Highway 12 and Wright County Road 6 (at the east end of town) would incur more accidents, because its crash history is so low.

A crash history revealed two accidents over five years for this intersection. The number of accidents at that intersection would probably increase to five or six, which would exceed the two crashes, Busch wrote.

"As you know, Highway 12 was also improved this past year through Howard Lake," Busch wrote in his letter dated March 25.

"The improvements at the intersection with Wright County 6 include a left- and right-turn lane on Highway 12 to County Road 6. We expect these improvements should also increase the safety of the intersection by allowing a safe turn onto County Road 6. Also, the improvements increases the sight distance for vehicles on County Road 6 turning onto Highway 12," Busch wrote.

Many residents may wonder why a stoplight wasn't installed in the first place when Highway 12 was reconstructed, Dumont said.

The answer is that it is more methodical and cost effective for MnDOT to wait until the minimum criteria is met, rather than install one prematurely that may contribute to more accidents, he said.

For example, the Highway 12 reconstruction took several years to plan and execute, he said.

Installing a traffic light takes a year or less, which is considered a fairly quick time frame for the state, he said.

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