MnDOT to conduct safety audit of intersection

NEW LONDON -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation will conduct a formal safety audit of the intersection of state highways 23 and 9 in New London.

NEW LONDON -- The Minnesota Department of Transportation will conduct a formal safety audit of the intersection of state highways 23 and 9 in New London.

Jon Henslin, MnDOT District 8 traffic engineer, and Dave Trooien, District 8 engineer, informed the New London-Spicer School Board of the plans to conduct the audit at the regular board meeting Monday.

MnDOT is studying the intersection after Kristina Scholl, a 16-year-old NLS high school student, was critically injured in a Sept. 7 accident at the intersection. Soon after the accident, the board asked MnDOT to place traffic controls or reduce the speed from 65 to 55 mph at the intersection.

MnDOT has completed traffic counts and an accident information review on the intersection, and neither warrant placing traffic lights at the intersection, Henslin said. Traffic counts were taken on Oct. 4 and accident data was reviewed from August 2005 to the Scholl accident.

Henslin also noted that traffic lights are not meant to prevent accidents.


"Signals are not a good source of accident prevention," he said. "This is not the type of thing you use to prevent accidents."

Ultimately, MnDOT would like to have an overpass or a roundabout at the intersection. But, the agency has no funds to do either project now, Trooien said.

Board member Robert Moller pointed out that there are traffic lights on Highway 23 in Spicer, Paynesville and Richmond and that slowing the speed would lengthen the trip to St. Cloud by 12 seconds.

"Traffic lights have the ability to protect people," he said. "We are looking for something to protect our children. Traffic lights and a slower speed would help."

Board member Michael O'Brien asked Henslin and Trooien if traffic could be slowed on Highway 23 during before- and after-school times. MnDOT has three schools in the district that have similar school zones with flashing lights and slower speeds at key times. They include Marshall, Pipestone and Dassel-Cokato.

"Slowing the traffic down is key," O'Brien said. "They (student drivers) can't judge the speed of that on coming traffic. Please look at slowing traffic down, even for those times."

The safety audit is a formal examination of a road or road project that is conducted by trained professionals, Henslin said. MnDOT had an eight-member team audit the intersection of Minnesota 294, Business Highway 71 and County Road 24 in Willmar. The team reviewed data and analyzed the intersection design before making both short- and long-term recommendations. He estimates the safety audit for the New London intersection to take three months.

Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, asked the board to make two practical requests immediately. First, that a police officer be at the intersection before and after school. Secondly, he asked that a flashing light be installed at the intersection to get drivers' attention.


Trooien noted that the safety audit will examine if flashing lights or highly reflective signs should be added at the intersection.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, noted that the safety audit is a good first step. He noted that everyone should be disappointed that safety is becoming a money issue, because MnDOT doesn't have funds.

"Money is an issue, it shouldn't be," he said. "We are taking about rural roads and highway safety."

What To Read Next
Get Local