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Audit analyzes Highway 12 problems, possible solutions
Aug. 10, 2015

Gabe Licht

DELANO, MN – From west of Cokato to Orono, many steps can be taken to make Highway 12 safer, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and consulting firm HDR told members of the Highway 12 Safety Coalition Thursday afternoon.

“We try to focus on short-term solutions,” said HDR project manager Brandi Popenhagen, who presented a preliminary draft of a Highway 12 safety audit. “We try to be strategic and look for lower cost solutions with bigger benefits.”

Popenhagen suggested the entire 33-mile stretch could benefit from centerline and edgeline rumble strips, though Claudia Dumont, of MnDOT, noted some stretches of the road are not in good enough condition to install rumble strips, and that doing so could accelerate deterioration.

Center buffer strips could better separate eastbound and westbound lanes, Popenhagen said, and she suggested they could be installed five to 10 years from now.

Another possibility would be a 2+1, which would be one- to two-mile stretches of two lanes going one direction and one lane going the other direction.

One corridor-wide change Popenhagen would like to see is consistent speed zones in each community.

“We noticed inconsistent speed changing as you enter towns,” Popenhagen said, referring to the team that toured the stretch of Highway 12. “We would like to make it consistent.”

Other short-term suggestions include more lighting, better management of access points, active road maintenance, more enforcement, and increased education and outreach.

In regards to active road maintenance, West Hennepin Public Safety Director Gary Kroells, who chairs the Highway 12 Safety Coaltion, suggested the possibility for law enforcement to talk directly to public works personnel in Wright and Hennepin counties during weather events.

In five to 10 years, more speed technologies, such as “your speed” signs, could be added.

Looking 10-plus years into the future, Popenhagen said there will likely be more roundabouts at city limits.

Intersection control evaluations should be completed in the next five years, Popenhagen said. She described three other types of intersections that could be considered.

The hybrid RCUT would eliminate left turns at intersections and, instead, drivers would turn right and make a sort of U-turn at a designated point 1,000 feet or less down the road.

The offset T intersection would require drivers going straight to jog to the right and then turn left to continue in the same direction.

The continuous green T intersection, such as the one being installed at the Highway 25 intersection of Highway 12, will allow one lane of traffic to travel continuously through the intersection, while the other lanes will be controlled by a traffic signal.

After identifying options that could be implemented throughout the stretch, Popenhagen reviewed individual segments of Highway 12. Crash rates from 2010 to 2014, as well as the audit team’s observations, were detailed in the preliminary report, along with possible suggestions.

West of Cokato
A major concern west of Cokato is school-related backups. Fatal and incapacitating crash rates are higher in this segment than the state average rate.

Short-term suggestions include implementing active enforcement near Dassel-Cokato High School, evaluating start and end times for schools, and an intersection control evaluation at Reardon Avenue Southwest. Intersection options include a signal with advanced queue detection and warning for mainline traffic, a continuous green T intersection with a dedicated left-turn lane, and a roundabout.

Potential problem spots in Cokato include Sunset Avenue North, Johnson Avenue North, and Jackson Avenue North, which all had higher crash rates than the state average, though none of them were fatal or incapacitating. Broadway Avenue’s crash rate was higher than those intersections, but lower than the state average for intersections with a traffic signal, low volume, and low speed.

In the short term, striping updates at Broadway Avenue to increase the width for truck movements are suggested.

Overhead pedestrian indications are suggested in five to 10 years.

Medium to long-term suggestions include managing access points, installing pedestrian bump outs at Broadway Avenue, and moving north and south stop bars closer to the intersection at Broadway Avenue.

Pedestrian bump outs are sidewalks and curbs that jut into the street, usually near on-street parking.

Howard Lake
Howard Lake’s segment of Highway 12 has a fatal and incapacitating crash rate that exceeds the state average and critical rate based on those averages.

A potential problem spot is at the Wright County Road 6/10th Avenue intersection, which has a higher crash rate than the state average. A medium to long-term suggestion is to install pedestrian bump outs at that intersection.

Short-term suggestions for the stretch include reloacting the “1005 Sixth Street Burkstrand Building” sign around the north leg of 10th Avenue and updating pedestrian flashers to be rectangular rapid flash beacons.

Many intersections in Waverly and Montrose have crash rates near or below the state average.

Short-term solutions include an additional street light at Clementa Avenue, advanced warning signs and flashers to notify eastbound and westbound drivers of the signal at Highway 25, and updated pedestrian flashers.

Pedestrian bump outs are suggested at various crossings in the future, as is a High-Intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) beacon at or near the 4th Street intersection.

Eastern Montrose
The crash rate in eastern Montrose is higher than the state average and critical rate due to a fatal crash at Zephyr Avenue.

The crash rate at the Highway 25 intersection is slightly higher than the statewide average. A continuous green T intersection is being installed and the only suggestion for the stretch is to monitor the success of that intersection.

West of Delano
The primary concern west of Delano, which has a crash rate higher than the critical rate and state average, is Wright County Road 14.

More lighting between that intersection and Delano, as well as “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signage and LED flashers on the County Road 14 stop signs are suggested.

Several suggestions were made for the Highway 12 segment in Delano, where the County Line Road intersection has a higher than average crash rate.

Short-term suggestions include adding warning flashers and relocating the beacon prior to the bridge east of the Bridge Avenue intersection and prior to the curve west of the intersection, adding “Signal Ahead” signs for westbound traffic at Wright County Road 30, adding horizontal curvature warning sign for westbound traffic approaching the County Road 30 intersection, performing an intersection capacity analysis to determine if additional lanes are needed at Tiger Drive, evaluating system-wide signal coordination through town, adding a flashing yellow arrow for left turns at County Line Road, and adding pavement markings for pedestrian crossings at County Line Road.

Kroells suggested a green arrow at County Line Road rather than a flashing yellow arrow.

A medium-term suggestion was to add pedestrian bump outs or curb extensions at Highway 12 intersections, though Dumont said bump outs would not be a long-term solution on the stretch.

Other medium-term suggestions include looking into closing accesses around Babcock Circle, especially on the north side; removing left turn lanes onto Crow River Drive; and extending right turn lanes at County Line Road.

A long-term suggestion is to make the segment four lanes, which Dumont said could be done by restriping the road to eliminate on-street bike lanes.

The Independence segment of Highway 12 includes two intersections – Hennepin County roads 90 and 92 – that have a crash rate at least double the state average. As a whole, the segment’s fatal and incapacitating crash rate is nearly double the state average.

Several suggestions were made to try to reduce those numbers.

Included in short-term suggestions: adding chevrons to the horizontal curve around mile marker 144, adding corridor lighting between county roads 92 and 90, adding left turn lanes on County Road 92, and reviewing both problem intersections.

Medium-term suggestions include widening shoulders and installing a center buffer strip; closing the western access for Peterson Produce, access to Hitsman Lane East, and access to Valley Road; adding a left turn at WestPointe Church; improving a clear zone on the westbound shoulder between county roads 92 and 90; realigning approaches from County Road 92 intersections; adding a channelized right turn lane on the southern County Road 92 approach; and updating lane markings on County Road 90.

In the medium- to long-term future, MnDOT would suggest developing 2+1 passing lane sections and new intersection options at county roads 90 and 92.

Maple Plain
Maple Plain’s potential problem spots include Pioneer Avenue, which has a fatal and incapacitating crash rate 10 times the state average, Budd Avenue, and Hennepin County Road 19.

Short-term suggestions include creating a continuous left turn lane from Hennepin County Road 83 to the location east of the nearby median barrier, installing advanced warning signs to traffic approaching the Hennepin County Road 29 signal, and reviewing that intersection.

Medium-term suggestions include moving left turn loop detectors and restriping the south approach lanes at County Road 83, and closing the south access from Budd Avenue and/or Hennepin County Road 19, and close the Oak Street access.

Long-term solutions include installing a raised median between Maple Avenue and County Road 29, installing roundabouts at Maple Avenue and County Road 29, and install traffic control at the County Road 29 intersection.

The Orono stretch of Highway 12 has a fatal and incapacitating crash rate more than double the state average.

Short-term suggestions include a buffer strip, Hennepin County Road 6 ramp metering, and “Congestion Ahead” signage.

Medium-term suggestions include a dynamic shoulder that could be used for eastbound traffic between County Road 6 and Wayzata and a moveable barrier.

Chad Erickson, of MnDOT, was encouraged by the preliminary audit report.

“I really like the results of this,” Erickson said. “It has a lot of good solutions.”

He suggested, “If you want to see these things happen, the most important thing you can do is keep the group going.”

Delano Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa was thankful for the information and said it is the coalition’s duty to take appropriate action.

“Getting this information is super helpful,” Stolfa said. “If we do nothing with the information, then it’s worth nothing.”

The coalition will meet next at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Delano City Hall.

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