The new concrete median barrier installed on Hwy. 12 in Orono was completed last Friday and not a moment too soon.

Just hours after the highway reopened following construction, a motorist suffered a medical emergency while driving west from Wayzata into Orono and bounced off the wall several times before police were able to stop the car at County Road 6. The wall prevented the male driver from crossing the center line.

"In only hours after Hwy. 12 opened it has proved its worth," Orono Police wrote on its Facebook page. "This definitely could have been another devastating crash albeit something that the driver could not know would happen to him as he drove home."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation hired S.M. Hentges & Sons, Inc. to install the center median to separate eastbound from westbound along the dangerous stretch 3-mile of the highway that has seen a high number of crossover crashes, including six fatal wrecks since 2011. The work was part of safety improvements for Highway 12 as recommended in the U.S. 12 Road Safety Audit.

For the last two weeks in October, the highway was closed to all traffic between County Road 112 and County Road 6. The $2.3 million project was not supposed to have been completed until this week. But fast work and good weather allowed the contractor to finish the work a week early. The highway reopened to traffic last Friday.

That same day, a motorist called police to report an erratic driver bouncing off the newly installed median, police said. It turns out the the male driver was "suffering from a medical emergency," Orono police said.

He was taken to a hospital and is now recovering, police said.

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