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Changes coming to crash prone intersection

A fresh snow fall blankets the area around the intersection of County roads 23 and 9 north of Bluegrass Thursday morning. Improvements are planned for the intersection to increase awareness of stop signs on County Road 9. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

More signage, more reflectivity and rumble strips are planned to be installed at the intersection of County Road 23 and County Road 9 as a way to give more warning to drivers of what has been a dangerous intersection in the past few months.

That's what Wadena County Commissioners heard at their regular board meeting Tuesday, Oct. 9 at the Wadena County Courthouse. The topic came up by the request of board chair Sheldon Monson who said he heard from various constituents concerned about the safety of that intersection. Other commissioners also heard about concerns from people saying there should be more done including LED signage, lights over the intersections and possibly shaving the hill further.

County coordinator Ryan Odden said the hill leading up the intersection was cut by 6.5 feet during the last project. From Odden's perspective, standing at the intersection last week, he said there is roughly 5-8 seconds of time to make it through the intersection. That was not a lot of time but enough time, based on safety standards. He also took into consideration that the last three crashes at that intersection were not related to the hill, rather they involved people not stopping at a stop sign.

Odden said rumble strips were being installed at the intersection Tuesday morning, but that installation was delayed to Tuesday, Oct. 16 because of the wet weather. More signs, larger signs and more reflectors had been ordered to be placed at the site. He added that the decision to do so came after meeting with various highway department employees that are also on the fire department. Odden said a decision to add rumble strips has not happened like this in at least a decade.

Odden spoke further about the 9 and 23 intersection saying that people have been commenting about there being a visibility issue at the intersection, but he noted that it meets standards based on 55-65 miles per hour speeds.

Commissioner Chuck Horsager indicated he wanted to see some changes done at the intersection, while Commission Chair Sheldon Monson advocated for LED stop signs at both intersections.

Commissioner Dave Hillukka said they should make adjustments based on a study not on a "knee-jerk reaction." Odden said that a study has been ongoing and should be ready to report to the county board Nov. 13. At that time it could give the commissioners and highway department more information about other needs in the highway system.

As part of the discussion, Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr brought state and local data from the past 10 years showing numerous crashes at the discussed intersection as well as County Road 23 and County Road 4, which also saw another crash just last week.

Carr pointed out that the last few crashes on County Road 23 and 9 involved drivers from out of the area and most happened during the day.

Based on that data, three fatalities were recorded on county road intersections in the last 10 years, that's out of a total of 17 crash fatalities recorded on county intersections in that time.

Looking at the data and personally attending several of the recent crashes, Sheriff Carr said that in his opinion, the worst intersections in the county are where County Road 9 and County Road 4 intersect County Road 23.

Odden said the highway department has been working to stay proactive on road safety and he looks to do corridor improvements based on the data, possibly making changes to all County Road 23 intersections.

Crash report

A report gathered by Wadena County Sheriff's Sergeant/Investigator Amy Ament showed the number of crashes on county road intersections in the last decade.

2008: 2 crash no injuries

2009: 2 crash no injuries, 1 injury crash, 1 fatality (Twin Lakes Road and 384th Street)

2010: 1 crash no injury, 1 injury crash

2011: none

2012: 1 injury crash

2013: 2 crash no injuries, 2 injury crashes, 1 fatality (County Roads 7 and 26)

2014: none

2015: 1 crash no injury, 1 injury crash

2016: 2 crashes no injuries

2017: 1 crash no injury, 1 injury crash

2018: 1 crash no injury, 5 crashes with injuries, 1 fatality (County Road 23 and 9)

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