Motorists involved in crashes on two freeways in Minneapolis have a place to pull off the road and get out of harm’s way.

But many drivers don’t know about the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Crash Investigation Sites, and they can be tricky to find.

A few are asphalt slabs on shoulders and exit ramps along Interstates 94 and 35W, but most are on side streets just off the highway. They provide a place to relocate crashes to reduce gawker slowdowns and keep traffic moving, said Brian Kary, MnDOT’s director of traffic operations.

“With vehicles [on the road] and people walking around, there is the risk of a secondary crash,” Kary said. “We want to get them to safer locations.”

MnDOT put in 20 of the sites in 1989 as a test project along I-94 between Hwy. 280 and the Lowry Hill Tunnel and on I-35W between Crosstown Hwy. 62 and Washington Avenue. The sites, where drivers can exchange insurance information and fill out reports, also included call boxes to allow motorists to summon help.

Over the years, a few sites were removed during construction. Others, such as those in parking lots of a former office building near U.S. Bank Stadium and the Mayflower Church, were abandoned because they were not used enough for MnDOT to justify leasing the spaces, Kary said.

In 1999, MnDOT removed call boxes and the large signs along the freeways directing drivers to the sites.

“We found people didn’t know what they meant,” Kary said.

About 17 of the sites are still active, Kary said. The most-used one is on I-94 at Huron Boulevard near the University of Minnesota, likely because it is easy to find, Kary said. Drivers can find the sites by looking for small blue signs with an image of a tow truck pulling a car that are often positioned along highway off-ramps. Signs at the investigation sites are accompanied by “No Parking” signs to ensure space is available.

Drivers involved in a crash, if possible, should move their vehicles out of the traffic lanes and onto the shoulder or a safe spot to wait for a state trooper or a member of MnDOT’s Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (FIRST) — those yellow trucks that respond to incidents ranging from crashes to motorists who need help with flat tires — to arrive.

MnDOT doesn’t expect motorists to drive to the sites on their own. A trooper or FIRST driver can lead them there, Kary said.

“Stay in the vicinity of the incident,” Kary said. “We don’t want people getting separated.”

Getting an incident off the highway can have a big effect on traffic. According to MnDOT, a crash or stall blocking one lane of a three-lane freeway reduces road capacity by 50%. Capacity drops by 65% if one lane on a two-lane road is blocked. For every minute an incident remains on the road, drivers experience four to five minutes in delays, MnDOT says.

Speeding enforcement results

Law enforcement officers across the state issued 16,122 speeding citations during a monthlong enforcement and awareness campaign that ended July 19.

That was down from 21,400 citations issued during a similar event last year.

This year, there were 15 speed-related fatalities during that time, compared with seven last year, the Department of Public Safety said.

The fastest driver cited was clocked at 141 mph in Blaine.

 

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