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MnDOT explains survey, sidearms

A traffic survey conducted in Wadena on Monday raised questions and curiosity among area residents.

Craig Vaughn of SRF Consulting Group said that Wadena was chosen for the transportation survey, and results would be reviewed over the next couple weeks.

Vaughn said a security firm called Statewide Protective Agency pulled over motorists for the survey. Drivers were asked where they were coming from on a map of the Wadena area, and where they were going to, and whether the purpose of the trip was for work, school, shopping, etc.

He said that the purpose for having a security firm doing the project was to have motorists be careful with their speed in the survey zone, and to direct them over to where they would answer the questions.

"It's just a transportation study in order to understand what the existing transportation network, how it's serving the area and community, and how that area and community can be better served under future conditions," Vaughn said.

In response to questions about the security company using side arms, Dana Hanson of MnDOT District 4 communications wrote, "MnDOT was not aware ahead of time that the traffic control officers would be carrying side arms and we did not specifically require or authorize them to do so. Some security companies require their employees to carry side arms and some do not. This particular company requires its employees to be licensed and carry a side arm - it is a condition of employment. Their officers are very experienced and provide traffic control and security for several agencies statewide, including police departments and large events. The intent was definitely not to force or intimidate anyone into providing information - the survey was completely voluntary."

Vaughn said that a private security firm was chosen to pull cars over instead of public law enforcement because of the voluntary nature of the survey and not wanting to give a false impression. Unlike pulling over for a police car, which is required by law, pulling over for the traffic survey was not required and ignoring the security firm survey cars would not have gotten anyone in trouble.

Hanson said the survey takers were M State students from Wadena and Detroit Lakes.

"The survey information gathered on Tuesday will provide valuable information for the Wadena Area Transportation Study, the goal of which is to help improve the transportation system in the Wadena area. We greatly appreciate the enormous amount of input we received from all those who participated in the survey," she wrote.