Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 25, 2004

Police unhappy about missing fog lines

By Jane Otto

Some Mc Leod County Road 1 motorists may not have notice the missing white edge lines along the road through Winsted and Lester Prairie.

Others may have using them as guide lines in the dark or rainy weather.

The lack of them since late August, however, have caused Winsted and Lester Prairie police chiefs concern for the public’s safety. Both officers recently notified their city councils of the situation.

“I’ve had complaints from citizens as to when those lines are going to be painted,” Lester Prairie Police Chief Carlson said. “It’s OK with the 30 mph roads. It’s the roads where you are going 40 to 45 mph, that’s a concern.”

Carlson and Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich contacted the county highway department asking that the lines be painted. Because of the number of pedestrians and bikers through the towns, the white lines define an area where those people can safely be, the officers agreed.

A state highway until about six years ago, the County Road 1, then called Highway 261, always had edge lines. At the time the road became a county highway, it was widened and curb and gutter added on the sections through both towns. The contractor had the fog lines painted on the roadway.

The road, however, was resurfaced this past summer through both towns, but the edge lines didn’t return.

“We don’t stripe where there’s curb and gutter,” County Engineer John Brunkhorst said. “Our philosophy is not to do that in these particular areas.”

The Minnesota Department of Transportation only requires a center line where there is curb and gutter, he added.

According to state law, when there’s no edge line, it’s legal for motorists to pass on the right vehicles that are making a left-hand turn.

“This is a really public safety issue,” Carlson said.

The county did come back and put in lines defining a right-turn lane.

At Lester Prairie’s Oct. 11 city council meeting, City Council Member Larry Hoof said it would have been nice if the county notify the city it was painting lines on County Road 1 and given the city the opportunity to pay for the painting if it wanted the edge lines.

Assistant County Engineer Bob Kaytor later said the county sought bids last winter for the painting and seal-coating together. The county didn’t consider the paint through either town due to the existing curb and gutter there.

“We never would have notified them otherwise,” Kaytor said.

Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich, however, is concerned about the number of people now living on the west side of County Road 1 who are crossing the road to get downtown.

“We’re not even arguing the fact that we have to pay for it,” Henrich said. “We’re going to have a ton of people on the west who we need to ensure their safety. It comes down to paint the white lines and let the city pay to have it done.”

Seeking help, Henrich called the area’s county representative, Commissioner Ray Bayerl.

Henrich told Bayerl the city is willing to pay the striping costs if the county will agree to paint the stripes.

Bayerl was positive” and agreed to work with the highway department to resolve the matter, Henrich said.

Kaytor agreed the police’s concern is legitimate, though he added it possibly isn’t the best place for pedestrian traffic due to the 45-mph speed limit.

The road is “unique” because it serves as a north-south corridor connecting Arlington in Sibley County to Howard Lake in Wright County, he said. “It’s meant to move people.”

Two other sections of county roads have curb and gutter, both of which are in Glencoe, Kaytor said. One is a half-mile stretch of County Road 33 that is 40 mph and the other is County Road 3, which has a 55-mph speed limit.

“If we decide (County Road 1) should have edge lines,” Kaytor said, “then maybe we better review our whole policy.”

He did add that it’s probably too late in the year to paint the lines if it was decided to do so.

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