Strib Remix #1: A utopian post-car re-imagining of a recent Star Tribune article

Hwy. 52 between 
Rochester, Cities 
dangerously behind the 

 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
Updated: October 23, 2011 - 11:17 PM Just now. By me.

Two deadly crashes this month underscore 
the need to upgrade an outmoded stretch of reduce the need to drive long distances quickly on 
busy Hwy. 52 between the Twin Cities and 
Rochester, while officials clamoring for 
those improvements admit that eliminating 
dangerous intersections reducing auto dependency would necessarily take years is the only choice given the 
and millions of dollars they don't have.

Because of a lack of alternative transportation options the divided highway is a key link the only way to get between the 
metro area and the state's third-largest city, 
the Mayo Clinic and Interstate 90. Despite 
stretches that appear to be freeway, the 
highway is still peppered with "at-grade" 
crossings in rural areas, where drivers on 
county roads must cross high-speed traffic 
without the benefit of bridges or on-ramps.

"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 get that road fixed shift our culture away from its dangerous reliance on the automobile." 

The Minnesota Department of 
Transportation has been working with 
Dakota, Goodhue and Olmsted counties to 
eventually turn the entire stretch into 
freeway figure out ways to reduce auto dependency.

But Building interchanges and 
redirecting crossroads is an expensive, 
years-long process that government can't really afford any longer.

 Yet Even though by banding together to lobby for 
projects, rather than competing with each 
other for the money, local governments they have completed or 
found funding for about half the 18 projects, there is still on a $796 million to-do list that's been hanging around since drawn up in 

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 replace stoplights in Cannon Falls 
with a new interchange introduce traffic calming techniques. 

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 

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.


Alex said...

$800m would have payed for tracks between the Twin Cities and Rochester.

Nathaniel said...

More stoplights have been removed on the 
northern edge of Rochester and Hwy. 52 is a 
freeway all through that city.


Umm ... Wouldn't it have made more sense to make Hwy. 52 an "interstate" BETWEEN the cities, instead of making it a highway between the cities and an interstate THRU the city?

Stephen Gross said...

Nicely done my friend. We need to get Americans to wake up and understand that auto-dependence is a *choice*, and that there are other options!