An open meeting with the Minnesota Department of Transportation resulted in many questions by Rochester residents and many others from around Minnesota, especially in regard to the Reduced Conflict Intersection layout or “J-turn.” This is something that has been met with a lot of skepticism, as many individuals do not see how it could work. Transportation officials, however, backed up their recommendation with research that they say will increase public safety.
The issue is that the land contours in combination with high-speed traffic has made a particular intersection quite dangerous. MnDOT installed trial traffic signs that indicate when the intersection is safe to cross. These trial lights are not a long-term fix.
One scenario that was evaluated at the meeting was when a loaded semi truck is too large to fit the median safely, causing the driver to have to wait before they can safely cross the highway. They have to ensure there is no oncoming traffic from more than one southbound lane and more than one northbound lane. This can create a major problem because four lanes are difficult to watch and this is cause for t-bone accidents. Cars can travel into the median and then roll forward some, anticipating the traversing the second set of lanes. This is a dangerous scenario, nonetheless, mainly because of the blind spot in many vehicles. The driver does not see an approaching vehicle and they are impacted at a right angle.
During the meeting, there were facts and figures presented, such as the crash statistics regarding one particular intersection that netted 84 crashes between 2000 and 2011. Of all of those crashes, 51 were T-bone collisions and 11 of them were either very serious or fatal. The crashes are made up of both commercial truck accidents and passenger vehicles.
Rochester was particularly a focus because the community is one that is growing and netting a great number of investments. It was noted that the state needs to ensure the investment in helping people get to Rochester, making the community the center of the new plan, which consists of extending turn lanes at public roadways and ensuring any overpass construction implements the new standards. The plan also consists of additional lighting and establishing concrete barriers that would prevent drivers from crossing into the oncoming lane when making a left turn onto highways or other roadways.
Now MnDOT is looking into securing the funding for the overhaul projects, advising that the project shouldn’t be funded cheaply, as there is a lot of work to be done. This has led to the seeking of grants to help fund the projects so that there is not as much a burden on the state.