Residents who live near a busy intersection in Credit River Township where there have been two fatal crashes in just over a year have long wanted Scott County officials to make it safer.
They might finally get their wish.
County traffic engineer Tony Winiecki said the highway department will present a recommendation for intersection traffic control at 185th Street and Natchez Avenue at the County Board meeting on Tuesday.
Winiecki declined to say what the recommendation will be, but one plan still on the table is a reduced conflict intersection, or RCI. That treatment would include a median that would prevent northbound and southbound drivers on Natchez from crossing through the intersection. Motorists would have to make a right turn onto 185th, cut over a lane about a quarter-mile down the road, then make a U-turn. Once back at Natchez, drivers could turn right or go straight on 185th.
Because drivers can’t proceed directly across the main road, the configuration reduces the possibility of right-angled or broadside crashes, which are most likely to be deadly or result in serious injuries, said MnDOT traffic engineer Derek Leuer. Studies show a 70% reduction in fatalities and a 42% drop in crashes resulting in injuries at RCIs.
The idea for the design at 185th and Natchez came up last fall, but it met resistance from residents.
Chelon Rasmussen, who lives nearby, wants a roundabout.
“Anytime I go to that intersection it’s nerve-racking,” she said. “It’s getting scarier and scarier. ”
Minnesota Department of Public Safety records show there have been 17 crashes at the intersection since 2006, including the two recent fatal wrecks. Wycliff Mose Chacha, 36, of Eagan, and Maxwell Araka Chacha, 11, were killed April 1 when the vehicle they were in collided with a semitrailer truck making a left turn from 185th to southbound Natchez. A 14-year-old boy was killed and his father injured in February 2019 after another motorist ran a stop sign and hit them.
“Every time something happens … it’s heartbreaking” Rasmussen said.
She said a roundabout would slow the 17,200 to 20,300 vehicles on 185th Street that pass through the intersection each day, and thereby improve safety. “A win-win,” she said.
Rasmussen points to a nearby success story at Hwy. 13 and County Road 2 in Cedar Lake Township. After a roundabout was put in there in 2005, crashes dropped by 76%. Those resulting in injuries declined by 79% and there were no right-angled or T-bone type crashes, according to the “Minnesota Roundabout: A Scott County Success Story” report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If the board approves the recommendation, Winiecki said the county has set aside funding and will start work as soon as possible. “It’s our mission to provide safe travel on all our roadways,” he said.
Key downtown ramps closing
Ramps from 10th Street and S. 4th Avenue to southbound I-35W and from northbound I-35W to 5th Avenue will close Monday through late summer. The ramp from northbound I-35W to 11th and Grant streets will stay open, MnDOT said.
The closures are related to the $239 million rebuilding of I-35W between 43rd Street and downtown Minneapolis.
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