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News from around the state

Motorcycle deaths are mounting, surpass total for all of 2014

Public safety officials are pleading with motorcyclists and motorists alike to exercise caution and make safety a priority after the state recorded its 47th motorcyclist death of the year, one more than in all of 2014.

The most recent motorcycle fatality occurred over the weekend when 58-year-old Neville Amundson, of Cottage Grove, crashed on Hwy. 61 near Leeder Avenue. Amundson was driving at a high rate of speed while entering a curve on a hillcrest when lost control and rolled at 7:54 p.m. Saturday, the State Patrol said.

He was not wearing a helmet, according to the patrol's report.

"More than half of these riders weren’t wearing a helmet when they crashed, and half of these fatal crashes were single-vehicle crashes involving only the motorcycle," said Bill Shaffer of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center. "These are preventable. We strongly encourage riders to take a training course, wear full protective gear and slow down. It could save their life."

Motorcycle deaths are up 47 percent compared with this time last year when there had been 32 motorcycle crashes.

Officials said there was no specific reason for the spike in rider deaths this year, but said failure to yield is the most-cited contributing factor in fatal wrecks involving motorcyclists.

Of the 47 riders who have died, 31 were not wearing helmets. More than 65 percent of fatalities involved riders over age 46 while 15 percent were riders under 30. In 19 of the fatal crashes, motorcyclists were navigating curves while speed was a factor in 11.

With several weeks left in the riding season, public safety officials urged motorcyclists to wear brightly-colored protective gear, including a helmet. They also warned motorcyclists to watch out for inattentive drivers, keep their speeds down, not drink and ride, and use good judgment by maintaining a 3-second following distance from the vehicle in front of them.

SouthWest Transit reinstates route to Normandale Community College

Riders have asked for Route 694S service from the southwest suburbs to Normandale Community College to be reinstated and SouthWest Transit says it's bringing the service back.

Starting Sept. 8, the agency will offer three additional trips between it's flagship station in Eden Prairie and the college in Bloomington.  Eastbound trips will depart the SouthWest Station off of Hwy. 212 and Prairie Center Drive at 7:20, 9:18 and 11:28 a.m.  Westbound trips will leave Normandale at 1:20, 3:28 and 5:01 p.m.

Arrival and departure times at SouthWest Station have been timed to allow commuters to make connections to buses serving East Creek and Southwest Village stations.

“We received an overwhelming amount of feedback from our Normandale riders about our schedules,” said SouthWest Transit CEO Len Simich. “It was essential to helping us develop a route that works with students’ busy school, work, and personal schedules.”

Route 694S will run in addition to the current Route 694, which provides service to Normandale Community College, Best Buy and Meridian Crossing.  The schedule for Route 694 will remain unchanged.