June 11, 2007

Winsted asks county to ignore its rule book for county roads

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Winsted citizens asked the McLeod County Board of Commissioners, at its Tuesday morning meeting, to overlook its rule book for county roads when considering safety issues for McLeod County Road 1.

The citizens were referring to Winsted’s council meeting May 15, when McLeod County Engineer John Brunkhorst listed the reasons why County Road 1 does not meet the criteria to have its speed reduced or a four-way stop installed at the intersection of Main Avenue and McLeod County Road 1.

Letting Winsted visitors know it was also concerned about County Road 1 safety, the first thing the board did was to approve a pedestrian-activated crosswalk warning system for the intersection of McLeod County Road 1 and Main Avenue. It is to be installed by the end of this summer.

After listening to Winsted City Administrator Brent Mareck, and Winsted residents speak, the county reassured Winsted that it would not ignore the traffic issue, but plans to put Winsted’s County Road 1 back on its agenda for next month.

It is being rescheduled so the county can review a written report regarding County Road 1 from John Henslin, who is a District Traffic Engineer for MnDOT.

As Commissioner Sheldon Nies explained to those present, the county can place a four-way stop on a county road, but the state decides whether or not to raise or lower the speed limit.

The board heard from County Commissioner Ray Bayerl who proposed the county make a strong recommendation to the state to very seriously consider lowering the speed limit to 35 miles per hour. Bayerl did not think that 35 miles per hour was out of line.

The county board agreed unanimously to the recommendation. In fact, County Commissioner Kermit Terlinden suggested the City of Winsted consider asking to have the speed limit lowered to 30 miles per hour.

The City of Winsted has asked the county to have the speed reduced to 35 miles per hour on County Road 1 from the Country Acres Mobile Home Park south to Vitran Express.

Bayerl encouraged Winsted to try the lowered speed limit first before requesting the four-way stop. He felt that the four-way stop would back up traffic on County Road 1.

Winsted business owner Jim Koch agreed with Bayerl. Koch explained that he has done a great deal of traveling and seen many towns. When drivers approach a crosswalk they automatically slow down. Koch wanted to see the speed reduced and the crosswalk, but not the four-way stop.

Winsted Council Member Bonnie Quast immediately stood up and told the county board how the thousands of people that arrive for Winstock every summer have to stop on County Road 1 at a temporary stop sign and it does not seem to impede traffic.

Don Guggemos, president of the Winsted Chamber, asked the county board to go beyond what the book says. He added there are exceptions to the rule and wanted the county to listen to the people using the highway.

Brunkhorst was present for Tuesday’s county meeting, as well. He reminded the county board of the need to be consistent on roads throughout the county. He repeated what he had told the Winsted Council in May on his findings on County Road 1. It does not have a lot of crash history, no obstructions, and it has a wide-road corridor.

Bayerl asked the county if Winsted was going to be penalized for putting in a decent road?

Later Tuesday afternoon, Henslin met with Brunkhorst, and Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich and re-evaluated the safety issues on McLeod County Road 1. He told Henrich that he would recommend reducing the speed to 35 miles per hour from Millerbernd Design and Fabrication to just past Casey’s General Store.

Henslin will submit the report to the county board for its meeting next month.

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