The Highway 12 Safety Coalition finally reached its goal of going 12 months without a fatal crash on a treacherous stretch of road in mid-September. But the streak lasted only a few days before a pedestrian was struck on Sept. 20 in Cokato, Minn., and died a few days later.
Now law enforcement and city leaders on the safety coalition are going to see some of the road improvements they’ve been pushing for on the two-lane highway they dubbed the “Corridor of Death.”
The Minnesota Department of Transportation will announce Tuesday that the agency will build a concrete center median along a portion of Hwy. 12, install a roundabout at a dangerous intersection and redesign a third intersection to improve sightlines in 2021.
“They are long overdue,” said Sgt. Rick Denneson with the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, which serves Maple Plain and Independence. “This 7- to 8-mile stretch of highway for whatever reason has been untouched. It’s still a narrow highway with hills, curves and narrow shoulders, and that has played into safety concerns we have raised.”
The death on Sept. 20 was one of many in recent years that have occurred along the unforgiving segment of Hwy. 12 running from Wayzata all the way through Wright County. From 2011 to 2016, records show 24 people died and 239 were injured in a total of 811 crashes on that stretch of the highway.
Ideally, coalition members would like to see Hwy. 12 widened to four lanes from Maple Plain to Delano. But for now they will settle for the $22 million in upgrades.
The work will include installing a median between County Road 6 and Baker Road in Maple Plain and adding a roundabout at County Road 90, an intersection where 22 crashes and one serious injury from 2011 to 2015.
In conjunction with Hennepin County, MnDOT will redesign the problematic County Road 92 intersection. From 2011 to 2015, 18 crashes resulted in six injuries and one fatality at the east junction (which includes an at-grade railroad intersection). At the west junction, eight crashes resulted in two injuries, according to MnDOT records.
“These are high-value projects with a high rate of return,” said MnDOT project manager Dan Mattison. “This has been a priority for a while and we can do them all in one construction season. We expect a big crash reduction.”
The safety coalition set the no-fatals-for-12-months goal in 2015. Denneson credited the past year’s success to an increased police presence along the highway and other enforcement efforts, including a median divider, turn lanes and centerline rumble strips in certain spots.
“It’s never enough,” he said. “We know there is more work to be done.”
MnDOT will unveil its plans during an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Independence City Hall, 1920 County Road 90, Independence.