Traffic engineers from Hennepin County and the City of Maple Grove are hoping recent improvements to stop lights at County Road 81 and Elm Creek Boulevard will make the crossing the intersections safer.
County records show that between 2012 and 2014, police responded to 35 crashes at the north and south intersections of County 81 and Elm Creek Boulevard, which are separated by a bridge that carries traffic on Elm Creek Boulevard over Hwy. 610.
It's not the number of crashes that have led to changes, rather the pattern of right-angle crashes, said Maury Hooper, a Traffic Division manager. Turns out drivers involved in the wrecks could not see the signals very well. Consequently that led to a high number of T-bone style collisions. An overwhelming majority of them were at the south intersection and about half of the injury-related wrecks resulted from motorists running red lights, Hooper said.
In the past two weeks, the city and county have teamed up to place reflective yellow borders around the signals to make them stand out. They also replaced directional arrows for traffic continuing through the intersection with full green dot and installed an additional signal on the near side of the intersection to get motorists' attention as they approach. The full signal on the mast arm that hangs over the intersections are on the far side of the intersection.
"Hopefully this will translate into a reduction in crashes," Hooper said.
Another factor that might play into the high number of wrecks is that there are many people in the area who are unfamiliar with the intersections since Elm Creek Boulevard also serves as an entrance to the nearby Elm Creek Park Reserve.
While it's too early to say if the improvements are helping, Hooper said he has received positive feedback from law enforcement. He said the county will continue to monitor the situation and continue to look for ways to improve traffic flow and cut down on crashes.