Residents say they want action on deadly SE Minn. intersectionby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
Cannon Falls, Minn. — Two deadly accidents on Highway 52 in October re-fueled concerns about a dangerous intersection on the highway between the Twin Cities and Rochester.
Transportation, public safety officials and legislators met Monday to discuss plans, including high-tech highway signals being tested south of Cannon Falls. Some residents said they're tired of waiting for a permanent solution.
The intersection in question — Highway 52 and County Road 9 — is just south of Cannon Falls. Four LED signs light up the intersection and are meant to tell drivers when it's safe to cross the intersection, which MnDOT says is the 13th-most dangerous in the state.
At the public meeting Monday, MnDOT District 6 Engineer Nelrae Succio said the crossing has been on MnDOT's radar for years. Just last month, three people died in two separate accidents here. And in the last 10 years, more than 100 accidents have occurred at this intersection.
"I don't know that there is an intersection or a site that I go by on a regular basis along this corridor where I haven't heard about something happening," Succio said.
The problem at some of these intersections, like County Road 9, has to do with blind spots caused by elevation differences of the two lanes, Succio said. She also said narrow medians add to the problem.
"That means it's very difficult for a semi-truck or maybe an RV or somebody pulling a boat or motor or camper, to maybe cross two lanes, stop in the median and then cross two lanes," Succio said.
MnDOT officials say the department has partnered with Dakota, Goodhue and Olmsted counties on a long-term project to eventually eliminate all the intersections, add ramps and make the highway into a freeway.
Officials say the department has either completed or found funding for more than half of the 18 projects along the corridor. But eliminating all the dangerous intersections like County Road 9 will take years — and that's way too long for some residents.
"The time is now to act; it's not time to get more information and more data," said resident Armond Kowalkowski. "People are dying."
After the meeting, Rep. Michael Beard, R-Shakopee, said MnDOT is doing the best it can to tackle individual projects along the corridor as the department gets funding.
"Studies and research do tell us how to do things bigger, better and faster," said Beard, who heads the House Transportation Policy and Finance Energy Subcommittee. "Highway 52 is benefiting from that. It's benefiting from a little bit at a time as we can afford it and as we can apply the latest and greatest technology."
Beard said transportation issues go beyond partisan politics. He said this year's $4.5 billion transportation budget is the largest MnDOT has ever had, but fixing the Highway 52 corridor will take time.
"An evolving freeway like Highway 52 is an evolutionary process. The road was built to get us out of the mud. Then we added extra lanes," he said. "We're slowly catching up and fixing that, as standards evolve."
The bright LED signs at the intersection of Highway 52 and County Road 9 are just one example of ways to cut down on accidents while officials figure out a long-term solution, he said.
- Morning Edition, 11/22/2011, 8:45 a.m.