- Rebecca Arndt
Minnesota Department of
District 7, Mankato/Windom
2151 Bassett Drive
Mankato, MN 56001
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Road safety audit completed on Hwy 14 from New Ulm to Mankato
Four alternatives to be analyzed to improve safety – Driving behavior needs improvement
MANKATO, Minn. – A recent Minnesota Department of Transportation road safety audit of Highway 14 from New Ulm to Mankato found a number of safety issues and provides alternatives to address those problems. The independent audit was conducted from January to March 2012.
“The severity of crashes on Highway 14 has been extremely troubling to us,” explained District Engineer Jim Swanson. “We initiated this audit to determine if there were any immediate low-cost measures we can take and to provide guidance for future investments.”
The audit crash analysis indicates that compared to other two-lane rural roadways, Highway 14 has about one-third the number of road runoff crashes, but three times as many head-on crashes than the state-wide average. The audit also found a large number of vehicles crossing the center line, even though rumble strips and other safety measures (signing, additional lighting, etc.) were installed in 2008-09.
The audit findings also note many diagonal or skewed intersections that make sightlines difficult at highway crossings. Human factors found in the review include lower than average seat-belt usage and distracted driving.
Speeds on Highway 14 were determined to be similar to other rural roadways and average 10 mph above posted speed limits.
To address the head-on crashes, the report puts forth four alternatives for consideration that address the center of the roadway. Two recommendations include creating a buffer area by restriping the roadway for errant driver recovery; one would be 4-foot wide and the second would be 12-foot wide and would include turn lanes. The third re-striping option is a new design for Minnesota called a two plus one road. Motorists would have passing options only in the two lane sections and a barrier would run down the middle of the road. The fourth alternative is a four-lane divided highway.
The Highway 14/15 intersection at New Ulm was also determined a safety issue with its curvature, steep grades and a large number of turning vehicles. The audit recommends this intersection include an all-way stop, a roundabout or an interchange.
MnDOT will complete an analysis of the recommendations including cost and look into available funding. The highway improvement recommendations are not low cost and MnDOT currently does not have funding designated for expanding the entire corridor to a four-lane expressway.
Swanson explained that the earlier forecasts of increased traffic on Highway 14 are not proving true in today’s economy. The flat traffic volumes combined with flat transportation funding with decreased purchasing power make major investments like four-lane expansions difficult.
However, action to improve driving behaviors on the corridor will be tackled by the multi-agency Toward Zero Deaths program. The local corridor coalition is aware of the problem and will be getting further input at their first workshop on April 19 in New Ulm.
MnDOT will continue to meet with the Highway 14 Partnership in May as part of a new Corridor Investment Management Strategy program that will look at interim options.
To review the entire audit report, go to www.dot.state.mn.us/d7/projects/14newulmtonmankato/.