The state plans a $60 million reconstruction project next year of the Hwy. 7/Hwy. 100 interchange that will eliminate the ramp where Thursday’s accident happened, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
A MnDOT document from 2010 ranked the west-side interchange of Hwys. 100 and 7 as the 27th-costliest interchange crash site in Minnesota. The frequency and severity of crashes in that area were nearly double the metro average, the document said.
“Crash studies have indicated that several of the substandard ramps along this corridor are causing an unacceptable number of correctable crashes,” MnDOT said in the document. “These substandard lanes affect the safety and operation of the freeway and have a significant impact on merging and diverging operations.”
But no previous safety concerns have been raised about the interchanges on the east side, where the northbound ramp to Hwy. 100 passes by the pond.
Joan Reamer, office manager of the St. Louis Park Police Department, said there have been 333 accidents, 22 of them with injuries, at all interchanges in all directions of Hwy. 7 and Hwy. 100 since 2011.
“I checked with staff and no one recalls any incidents where a car went off the ramp, into the pond,” Reamer said.
Bobbie Dahlke, a spokeswoman for MnDOT, said there are no guardrails at that interchange because if a motorist were traveling at the posted speed, there is “enough room to recover before hitting an object or before going into the pond.”
The upcoming project will eliminate the ramp where the incident occurred and a loop will be constructed on the south side of Hwy. 7 to merge onto northbound Hwy. 100, Dahlke said. She said the change is intended to improve traffic flow on northbound Hwy. 100.