Scott County transportation officials plan to fix a dangerous intersection in Credit River Township where a crash in February killed a 14-year-old boy and left his father seriously injured.
That’s good news for those who live near County Road 21 (also known as 185th Street) and Natchez Avenue, who agree with officials that something needs to be done to make the intersection safer. But that is where the agreement stops.
The county is looking at changing the layout so drivers on Natchez could not cross 185th or make a left turn onto the divided four-lane thoroughfare. Instead, drivers would be forced to make a right turn, merge into traffic and go down several hundred feet to an opening in the median to make a U-turn.
Drivers could then turn right when they arrive back at Natchez or go straight on 185th.
It’s called a reduced conflict intersection. The uncommon configuration is starting to be used more often, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.
That kind of intersection offers great safety benefits, said MnDOT traffic engineer Derek Leuer. Drivers cannot directly cross the main road, so it reduces the possibility of right-angled or broadside crashes, which are the most likely to be deadly or result in serious injuries. Studies show a 70% reduction in fatalities and a 42% drop in crashes resulting in injuries at reduced conflict intersections.
Joe Egge, who lives nearby, believes there are better options. The proposal will introduce different safety issues, he said.
“You are at more risk because you are trying to get up to speed and cross over two lanes of [speeding] traffic and slow down to do a U-turn,” he said.
He suggests the county put in a four-way stop with flashers to get drivers’ attention and reduce the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph.
Resident Cindy McKinney says the proposed configuration will be just as dangerous as the existing one and will make it more difficult for those who live north of 185th to get out of their neighborhood.
“It’s not going to help anything,” said McKinney, who had a close call at the intersection two years ago. She said drivers on 185th don’t move over to allow drivers from Natchez onto the road. “They need to put up lights.”
There have been five crashes at 185th and Natchez since January 2013, said Mark Callahan, Scott County traffic engineer.
A county traffic study showed that 17,200 to 20,300 vehicles per day pass through the intersection on 185th Street compared with 2,950 on Natchez. That imbalance and the need to keep traffic flowing on 185th are among the reasons the county is not proposing a roundabout or stop lights, Callahan said.
The plan will be presented at an open house at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Credit River Township Hall.
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