Big loads delay traffic, test limits of new roundabouts

Sept. 15, 2008

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

MnDOT says the new roundabouts that are appearing all across Minnesota are designed to handle most traffic, but a couple of unfortunate drivers found out recently that there are some types of vehicles that are just too large to negotiate the structures.

The first incident Sept. 7 backed up traffic in the area near the roundabout at State Highway 15 and North High Drive in Hutchinson for about half an hour, MnDOT representative Dave Johnson said.

The incident occurred when a specialized vehicle that was carrying part of a large wind turbine tower tried to negotiate the roundabout.

Johnson said the vehicle was 177 feet long and 15.5 feet wide, and was operated by Anderson Trucking Service of St. Cloud.

Less than a week later, around noon Sept. 10, a similar vehicle carrying the same type of cargo and operated by the same company got hung up at the same intersection.

Workers removed signs to allow the vehicle to pass, and traffic was moving again in less than an hour.

Johnson said four of the trucks passed through Hutchinson Wednesday. Three took the approved route, traveling from Litchfield and into Hutchinson on Highway 7 from the west.

The fourth truck, the one that was delayed at the roundabout, took a different route and entered the city southbound on State Highway 15.

This vehicle, at 215 feet long by 15.5 feet wide, was even longer than the one on Sunday.

Johnson explained that specialty loads of this type must be permitted through MnDOT’s over-width and over-length office.

Before permits are issued, there is normally a dry-run along the proposed route to make sure the load will actually fit. That did not happen in this case.

Johnson said because the roundabouts are so new, MnDOT is in the process of figuring out how large a vehicle can safely negotiate the roundabouts.

Some companies that regularly haul specialty loads are self-permitting, Johnson said, and once a designated route has been established, the company continues to use it.

“We need to maintain routes across Minnesota for these oversize loads. The roundabout does complicate it,” Johnson commented.

Johnson said it is his understanding that the towers are shipped from Denmark by ship to the Duluth harbor. From there, they are transferred to specialized trucks with steerable rear axles, and transported to their final destination. These turbines were on their way to Buffalo Ridge in southwest Minnesota, Johnson said.

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