Mankato, Minn. - In the past, closing state highways during blizzards or other unplanned events has been a significant safety issue for drivers, law enforcement and highway workers alike. That’s why Mn/DOT recently added additional gates and signing to several rural highways that have had a history of closures.
While we are in the business of trying to maintain the highway system during snow and ice events, there are times when weather conditions make this impossible due to extreme snowfall and loss of visibility, explained Superintendent Tom Zimmerman. When our forces are unable to keep the highways open, then our only choice is to declare them closed. It is a decision we do not take lightly.
When a motorist encounters a flashing sign or closed gate they need to know that the road ahead of them is not safe for travel. Their only options are to turn around and/or to get off the road quickly. For more information on road conditions they can call 511 or log onto www.511mn.org .
The expanded road closure operations includes advance signing and gates on major corridors such as State Highways 23 and 60 and flashing signs on lesser traveled roads totaling 35 sites in southwestern Minnesota. (see map) Some of the sites will be manually operated and some automated so they can be closed from a remote site. Project cost was about $450,000.
As with any state highway closure, Mn/DOT will try to inform the public prior to the closure through the local media. Mn/DOT also reminds motorists that going around a “road closed” sign is illegal and may result in fines.
Mn/DOT conducted extensive research prior to the implementation of the Non-Interstate Road Closure program to determine the effectiveness of a closure system. Some of the benefits that come from having a closure system in place are:
• Gates/ signals provide a clear and indisputable notice that the road is closed
• Reduced accidents and stranded vehicles
• Reduction in delays for motorists due to the reduction in stranded or stuck vehicles once the storm is over.
• Time savings once the storm is over due to the snowplows ability to clear the roadways without having to work around stranded or stuck vehicles
• Road closure system is well-coordinated and provides documentation for delays
“Anyone who remembers the winters of 1996-97 and 2000-01 can appreciate the seriousness of having to close roads due to extremely dangerous driving conditions,” explains Zimmerman.
November 13-19 is Winter Hazard Awareness Safety Week. For more information on winter safe driving go to http://www.hsem.state.mn.us/WHAWeek/WHAW.html.
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