By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Following two fatal crashes within one week of each other, the Highway 12 Safety Coalition voted unanimously during a Dec. 11 meeting to approve the installation of center-line rumble strips on that stretch of road Dec. 13.
“Since this last incident, earlier this week, a contractor (Andy McDeid of Diamond Surface, Inc.) came forward to MnDOT and said they would be willing to install rumble strips from County Road 6 to County Line Road real soon,” Ron Rauchle, Metro West Area Engineer, told the coalition.
West Hennepin Public Safety Chief Gary Kroells, who chairs the coalition, led the discussion and acknowledged that several factors can cause someone to cross a center line.
“It’s been brought to my attention numerous times that we don’t know why people are crossing over,” Kroells said. “But, I can say, if you hit a rumble strip, you can feel it, you can hear it, and your car reacts to it. If we can get people to come back into their lane even 3, 4, 5 or 6 inches, it goes from a head-on to a side swipe and people live.”
He noted that rumble strips would not be installed in Maple Plain at this time. In addition, the stretch of pavement from Delano west to Highway 25 is not sound enough to support the addition of rumble strips at this time, according to MnDOT. However, a reconstruction project from Delano to Cokato is planned for fiscal year 2019, at which time additional safety features will be added.
Regarding potential noise complaints in the Independence area, Independence Mayor Marvin Johnson did not believe that would be a problem due to sparse housing along the highway.
“I’d say, ‘Get them in as quick as possible,’” he said.
Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok also supported adding rumble strips, having seen a significant decrease in cross-over accidents after center-line rumble strips were installed in other stretches of highway in Orono.
Scott McBride, Metro District Engineer with MnDOT, referenced a situation in Victoria where rumble strips were installed and later removed due to a negative response from the community.
“It’s incredibly painful to remove a safety feature, so I’m asking for consideration that, if we move this quickly, we have everyone on board,” McBride said.
Coalition members showed that support by drafting and signing a letter addressed to the MnDOT Metro District.
“The coalition is aware MnDOT has the opportunity to install rumble strips in the coming days, and this expedited installation departs from the typical review and installation process,” the letter read. “With the support of the local communities in this area, the coalition believes an expedited installation is warranted in this instance.
“Recent fatalities from cross-over center line accidents have further highlighted the needs of the Highway 12 corridor and rumble strips as one of the tools to provide a higher level of safety,” the letter continued.
It was noted that rumble strips had been discussed as a cost-effective and proven safety measure even before the recent fatal crashes.
Following the meeting, Kroells said, “It’s outstanding and unbelievable that we could come together in such a short period of time to accomplish this with all the different players involved.”
Odds and ends
In other business, the coalition:
• submitted a letter in support of funding to mitigate safety hazards along Highway 12 to Lars Impola of the MnDOT Metro Division. The letter noted that the fatality rate from Wayzata to Delano dating back to 2010 is 9:1 compared to Highway 55 from Plymouth to Rockford, despite being similar in distance and traffic counts.
• discussed highway lighting and decided to have each representative share their organization’s lighting plans at the coalition’s meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8, at Delano City Hall.