Safety improvement planning meeting held for dangerous Hwy 14 intersection

(ABC 6 News) – Officials with Olmsted County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) held a public meeting Thursday to talk about and receive input on short and long term plans to improve a dangerous intersection at Highway 14 and County Road 44.

"We have ideas of different things that can happen to improve the safety, but this is the opportunity for the public to really weigh in," said MnDOT Director of Public Engagement and Community Mike Dougherty.

The short term plans include closing off medians at intersections along Highway 14, but there are also concerns about the change in the traffic pattern.

"They are trying to do these things for safety but when you change the traffic patterns or don’t have a better understanding of the ag and truck traffic and where are you gonna force all that large oversized traffic to? I think they need to look back and do further studying," said Rep. Duane Quam of Byron.

Olmsted County Director of Public Works Engineer Ben Johnson said the long term plans are still in the works but there are several suggestions on the table, "Grade separated intersections, which would be an interchange. With the traffic that goes up and down County Road 44, which is 60th Avenue, something like that would probably be a good solution."

A big questions about the improvement project is the funding. "We don’t have an unlimited checkbook, so how do we balance cost and safety? And obviously safety has to win out," said Dougherty.

The intersection has a dangerous history averaging 10-13 accidents per year, some fatal, according to the MnDOT website.

Duane Quam says it’s urgent that officials and lawmakers make a decision quickly, "The more you put off, the more lives are cost. The more heart break and tragedy. And a lot of the passion here tonight, many of the people know someone who’s died because of the current road situation."

Officials with Olmsted County and MnDOT say they’ll take the information they gathered Thursday and use that in their planning process for the project.

Another public planning meeting is scheduled for the fall. Click here for more information.