Local drivers take to social media to vent

By Robert Williams

Editor

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plan to improve access and safety at the Highway 10 and County Road 60/228 intersection in Otter Tail County drew some less than favorable comments from area drivers on social media last week.

MnDOT plans to implement a reduced conflict intersection (RCI) there with the project currently scheduled for construction in 2024.

MnDOT is requesting the public’s feedback on the RCI design by bringing forward two options for public consideration: a median U-turn or a restricted crossing U-turn.

The first option involves closing the center median. This would eliminate left-turn movements. Motorists would instead turn right, followed by a downstream U-turn.

The latter would be similar, except the center median would remain open for Highway 10 traffic to turn left onto County Road 60.

Pedestrian access via installed sidewalks would also be included with either RCI design.

According to MnDOT, the intersection of Highway 10 and Otter Tail County Road 60 has a history of high crash rates marked by serious crashes. Because of this, it is ranked the number one priority intersection for Otter Tail County and ranked the number two intersection in MnDOT District 4’s safety plan.

RCIs are built so drivers from the side street only have to be concerned with one direction of traffic on the highway at a time. Drivers always make a right turn, followed by a U-turn.

On a national scale, in locations where an RCI has been constructed, there has been:

• 50 percent reduction in injury crashes

• 70 percent reduction in fatal crashes

• 35 percent reduction in total crashes

To date, RCIs built in Minnesota have resulted in a 100 percent reduction in fatal crashes at those locations, according to MnDOT.

MnDOT did consider other options, including a traffic signal, a new interchange or complete closure of the intersection, as part of a comprehensive review of design options.

Traffic modeling indicated that an RCI would reduce rear-end crash potential by 45-90 percent and reduce travel time by 10-23 percent when compared to traditional concepts like traffic signals and roundabouts.

Traffic signal

Signalization of the intersection was one of the first options considered for this project. Typically, traffic signals are a cost effective way to improve intersection safety. However, due to the rural location of this intersection, MnDOT considered that drivers would not expect to encounter a signal and crashes would likely increase on Highway 10.

Signal prioritization would also have to be given to the railroad, which runs along the north side of Highway 10, across the north leg of County Road 60. This would cause delays on Highway 10 whenever a train comes through the area.

New interchange

Due to traffic counts at this intersection, it would be hard to justify the construction of a new interchange, which would likely run between $10 to $20-plus million to build. There would also be major right-of-way impacts, and the overall planning process would be long and tedious.

Complete closure of intersection

During a study of the intersection, it was recommended that MnDOT District 4 close this intersection completely. Although likely the safest option because it would eliminate any cross-traffic turning movements, we knew that would have significant impacts to the local traffic commuting daily to other parts of the area.

“Safety is always our top priority, but transportation plays a key role in the local economy,” MnDOT said in a Q&A on the project website. “We knew there were other options that would improve safety, while also maintaining access to County Road 60.”

The project will be funded by federal safety dollars and MnDOT and is scheduled to be constructed in the summer of 2024. A detour is not expected. Single-lane closures will likely occur in all directions.

To view more information on the project visit: dot.state.mn.us/d4/projects/hwy10rci