Of the nearly 20 people who attended an open house last week for the proposed new roundabout at the intersection of County Road 8 and County 40, only a handful were against the project.
According to Douglas County Public Works Director Tim Erickson, the handful who don’t approve are “passionately against” it. However, several others voiced their approval at the open house, telling Erickson that it was about time the county was doing something.
A previous safety audit determined that this intersection was one of the most dangerous in Douglas County.
In the last 10 years, there have been 15 crashes, with the most recent crash – on Aug. 8. – killing a 47-year-old Brandon man.
The proposed roundabout would be at the intersections of County Road 8, known as the Barrett Road, and County Road 40, which was and still connects to 114. The intersection is slightly north and mostly west of Alexandria.
Because of how the roads are built, the intersection doesn’t square up perfectly, which is why it has to be redone.
The county also looked into rebuilding the intersection and putting in a four-way stop instead of the roundabout. Erickson said both projects would cost about the same – $1.6 million – and that the roundabout is a much safer option.
The roundabout, which has not yet received final approval from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, will be funded through the special half-cent local option sales tax that was adopted in 2014.
Erickson said he would be compiling all the comments received during the meeting, as well as comments he’s received via phone and email, and then will be presenting the information at the next Douglas County Board meeting.
He said the commissioners potentially could make a decision at that meeting, which is slated for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1, or they could schedule a public hearing.
If the commissioners decide to approve the project at the Sept. 1 meeting, Erickson said official construction plans would be drawn up and then in March 2021, the project would go out for bids. In addition, his department would work on the necessary wetland mitigation and right-of-way acquisitions needed before construction could begin.
Against the project
Rod Johnson from Alexandria has been vehemently against the roundabout since it was first mentioned. He has written several letters to the editor in the Echo Press about the subject and was one of the four who attended the open house passionately against it.
In a handout he provided to the newspaper, Johnson listed nine points of interest on the proposed roundabout.
Johnson said that the county believes the intersection of County Road 8 and County Road 40 is the only dangerous intersection, which is not true. He said the intersection of County Road 90 and County Road 45 has limited visibility because of a steep hill and curve and deep ditches at all corners because of underground walkways. Johnson said a number of years ago, two people were killed and one was seriously injured at that intersection.
He also talked about the intersection known as “Carlos Corners,” which is where Minnesota Highway 29 intersects with County Road 42/County Road 13, and how for many years it was the “deadliest intersection” in the county.
“I don’t know if it was the state or the county or both who came up with the four-way stop, but look at the dramatic change that simple move made,” Johnson wrote in his handout.
In his opinion, Johnson said one of the most dangerous intersections in the county he’s ever seen is where Hunters Bay Road and Minnesota Highway 114 intersect.
“If you pull out from Hunter Bay Road, you only have about 300 feet of visibility of traffic from County Road 40 under the I-94 bridge, and they are moving at 55 miles per hour,” he said. “To the south you have the big curve going around Lobster Lake to deal with and some Einstein decided to make that a 60 mile per hour zone. This road services at least 100 families and I think that the only reason the crashes are down at this intersection is because of defensive driving.”
Johnson said he has done a lot of traveling through many states and that he’s noticed a few things, such as where two U.S. highways intersect, a four-way stop is in place, and where a U.S. highway and state highway intersect, the state highway has a stop sign and the U.S. highway has reduced speeds. He said that the same thing goes for a city road intersection.
He made several other points in his handout and stated that all the crashes at the intersection of County Road 8 and County Road 40 were the result of bad decisions made by certain drivers, which resulted in injury and/or death, and that he intersection did not cause any of the crashes.