|A car on Goodhue County Road 14 waits for a gap in traffic in order to turn onto Hwy 52, south of Cannon Falls.|
Article by: Star Tribune
Two deadly crashes this month underscore the need to
Because of a lack of alternative transportation options the divided highway is
"It's brutal," said Goodhue County Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel, a teacher at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School whose former student Curtis Flom, 27, died in one of the recent accidents. "I'm waking up every day to
The Minnesota Department of Transportation has been working with Dakota, Goodhue and Olmsted counties to eventually
On the northern end, stoplights have been removed as interchanges and frontage roads were built in Inver Grove Heights. Medians that invited dangerous left turns from cross streets have been closed. On the southern end, an interchange is under construction south of Pine Island in anticipation of growth in the Elk Run area. More stoplights have been removed on the northern edge of Rochester and Hwy. 52 unfortunately is a freeway all through that city.
"Everybody has the same goal here -- to improve safety," said Olmsted County Engineer Mike Sheehan. In Goodhue County, construction will start in 2013 to
At County Road 9, the site of the two recent deadly collisions, there is an experimental dynamic sign that uses technology to gauge speed and gaps in highway traffic to let drivers on the county road know when it's safe to cross. There hadn't been a fatal crash there since the sign was installed a couple years ago.
"We were quite pleased," said Goodhue County Commissioner Richard Samuelson, who survived his own accident on Hwy. 52 about five years ago. "We hadn't had any accidents [or] tragedies there for some time. Then all of a sudden we have three in 10 days."
It's a sad fact that America’s reliance on automobiles as the only mode of transportation kills about 40,000 people every year. For example, on Oct. 8, Angelo Dimopoulos, 70, was driving westbound on County Road 9 and attempted to cross Hwy. 52 when two southbound vehicles hit his car. He died, as did his passenger, Connie Dimopoulos, 65. Ten days later, Flom was driving eastbound on County Road 9 when his sport-utility vehicle was broadsided by a northbound car.
Both crashes are being discussed by local officials in meetings of Toward Zero Deaths committees organized by MnDOT in 2004 because of the higher-than-usual crash rate in the corridor.
"We're already putting together a timeline of the safety improvements we're doing in that corridor," said Kristine Hernandez, MnDOT's Toward Zero Deaths coordinator.
In 2003, MnDOT installed large green-and- white signs advising drivers of the county road intersections. Other safety projects h ave included improvements to intersection lighting, rumble strips and road striping.
Yet, reducing auto dependency is a large intractable problem. Even today, about 20,000 cars travel the middle of the corridor each day, as measured near Cannon Falls. Near Interstate 494, Hwy. 52 sees 61,000 cars per day.
Goodhue County Sheriff Scott McNurlin said his deputies have paid particular attention to speed limit enforcement on Hwy. 52 in the past five to 10 years.
"We do get a lot of complaints on a regular basis about speed and aggressive driving," McNurlin said. "It's obviously designed to look and act like a four-lane highway that people drive on without paying attention like an interstate."
Compounding the problem, local officials said, are awkward angles at many intersections, thanks to the diagonal alignment of Hwy. 52 through the county. In those places, even the frame of a car's windshield can create blind spots that block fast-approaching traffic from view.
"You can't imagine how many close calls there have been," Samuelson said. "Everybody worries about [Hwy.] 52."
Katie Humphrey • 952-746-3286
A new electronic sign at the intersection of County Road 9 and Hwy 52, south of Cannon Falls, shows drivers when the gap in traffic is big enough for them to cross or turn onto the highway.