Improvements coming to site of deadly crashes in Itasca County

Lighted stop signs and rumble strips are two of the upgrades coming to a remote intersection that has seen two deadly crashes since May 24.


DULUTH -- A remote Itasca County intersection that was the site of two fatal crashes in recent weeks will be treated with enhanced safety measures, including added signage and rumble strips in the stopping lanes to alert drivers to the presence of crossing traffic.

The intersection at Itasca County roads 57 and 336 is a few miles outside Nashwauk.

fatal intersection.jpg
(Gary Meader/ News Tribune)

EMS worker Troy Boettcher, 51, of Warba, and Michael Latimer, 17, of Grand Rapids, were killed at the intersection June 8 , when the ambulance they were traveling in was struck by a dump truck. On May 24, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Sarah Grell was killed in a crash with a semitrailer truck.


Both Grell and the ambulance had been traveling on County Road 336, attempting to cross County Road 57, which does not yield to crossing traffic at the intersection.

"When I look at the intersection, it's got adequate sight distance and is much like numerous other rural intersections throughout our county and other counties," Itasca County engineer Karin Grandia said. "By the same token, there have been two tragic accidents in a short period of time. Based on that, we felt it was our obligation to do whatever we could to draw attention to the intersection."

State and local traffic safety professionals, including engineers, educators, law enforcement personnel and Itasca County commissioners, conducted a site visit at the intersection last week before making recommendations to the county's transportation department.

The intersection will continue to be a two-way stop, with north-south traffic on County Road 336 stopping at the site, while east-west traffic carries through with right of way at the intersection.

The additional safety measures expected at the site include:

  • "Gated" stop signs will be added to both sides of County Road 336, meaning each stopping vehicle will see signs in the driving lane and adjacent to the oncoming lane of traffic. Additionally, LED-lighting will be included on the stop signs in the driving lanes.
  • "Stop ahead" signs will be added to both sides of the road, just like with the stop signs. Currently, there are stop-ahead signs in the driving lanes only.
  • Finally, "transverse rumble strips" will be coming to the driving lanes of County Road 336 to alert drivers of the oncoming intersection.

"We're going to have increased visibility of the fact that there's a stop sign," Grandia said. "We're also upgrading to larger signs."
Grandia said the signs have been ordered, and that some of the improvements will come faster than others.

"We're not sure what's at play at that intersection recently to account for the crashes to occur in such a close timeframe," Grandia said. "We wanted to do anything we can to impact the future at the intersection."

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