By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Motorists traveling along Highway 12 near Quimby Avenue (west of Cokato) may experience some delays early this week as crews work to install ice sensors on the roadway in a crash-prevention effort.
A few years ago, Wright County Sheriff’s Sergeant Scott Halonen noted that he was responding to what appeared to be an increased number of crashes caused by icy road conditions east of the Dassel-Cokato High School.
It was almost as if something had changed with the roadway.
“It was a situation that got out of hand in the wintertime,” Halonen commented.
Halonen began talking with Minnesota Department of Transportation supervisors to see what could be done in that area to prevent crashes.
MnDOT responded by increasing patrols of maintenance crews and even installing snow fences on the north side of the highway.
Ice sensors is one more step that the state is taking in the hopes of preventing crashes and potentially saving lives along that stretch.
Over the past 10 years, there have been 55 crashes reported along the nearly three-mile stretch of Highway 12 from the Cokato city limits to the Dassel-Cokato High School. In 20 of those, road conditions were noted.
Because of the crash history, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been working for two years on ways to prevent crashes, particularly during the winter months. One effort included the erection of snow fences along that stretch to prevent snow from blowing across the roadway.
Due to the geographical features along that stretch, the road is susceptible to blow ice.
Kelly Brunkhorst, project manager with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, explained that blow ice occurs when wind blows snow particles across the road and those particles stick to the roadway (particularly on sunny days), causing icy conditions.
The ice sensors will detect the conditions of the roadway and alert the maintenance foreman that road conditions have changed.
The sensors will also trigger the activation of flashing warning signs located on each end of the stretch of roadway. The signs will read “Ice on Roadway When Flashing.”
MnDOT has been using ice sensors on bridges, but they haven’t before been used on rural roadways.
Three sensors will be installed in the pavement and will be connected to a nearby controller with a camera that will allow maintenance workers to see the current roadway conditions.
Installation of the sensors and signs is a 10-day project, and is expected to be completed this week.