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Paynesville Press - September 4, 2002

Highway intersection to get four-way stop

By Michael Jacobson

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) plans to install a four-way stop, with a flashing overhead red light, at the intersection of Highways 23 and 55 on the west end of Paynesville next spring.

Following numerous requests from the city of Paynesville concerning safety at the intersection, MnDOT – which says it has monitored the intersection for several years – conducted a study of the intersection in July, said Thomas Dumont, an assistant district traffic engineer with MnDOT.

Dumont informed the city of Paynesville of MnDOT’s intention to improve the intersection by letter in August.

The study consisted of determining traffic volumes, looking at traffic flow, examining the accident history at the intersection, and considering the physical layout of the intersection, according to Dumont.

There have been 13 accidents at the intersection in the past three years, including seven “right angle” crashes involving a vehicle on 23 and another on 55. “Right angle” crashes are generally the most severe and are a good reason to examine an intersection, said Dumont.

Overall, the crash rate at the 23/55 intersection is twice as high as the average rates for intersections in the St. Cloud/Brainerd district, said Dumont.

The city of Paynesville – in its most recent request – asked MnDOT to consider either a four-way stop or a traffic light at the intersection.

A few factors led MnDOT to opt for the four-way stop, said Dumont.

The odd configuration of the intersection, where Highway 23 curves sharply as it heads west out of town, likely was a factor in making traffic on Highway 23 stop in the first place and continues to be a deterrent to having a stop light. Traffic approaching the intersection from the west on Highway 23 might have a difficult time seeing if the light was green or red, said Dumont.

Also, the bridge over the North Fork of the Crow River limits visibility at the intersection.

In addition, a four-way stop costs less than a traffic light. A four-way stop generally costs around $20,000 to install, said Dumont, while a traffic light costs as much as $200,000. This was not the deciding factor, said Dumont, since safety is paramount.

MnDOT has also commissioned a study of Highway 23 in Paynesville, a study which is considering altering the route of the road through town.

In the meantime, the four-way stop in Paynesville should reduce accidents, like what has been done in Kimball at the intersection of Highways 15 and 55. “We think we can improve safety dramatically with a four-way stop,” explained Dumont.

Along with safety, another benefit could be better traffic flow on Highway 23, which is the busier road. (Research this summer by MnDOT indicated average daily traffic at the intersection on Highway 23 at 8,000 trips and on Highway 55 at 4,850 trips.) Traffic on Highway 23 should be better able to cross Highway 55 with a four-way stop, said Dumont.

A drawback will be that traffic on Highway 55 will have to stop once the four-way stop is installed.

Dumont said bids for the project could be let in March 2003, and the work could start in late April. He estimated it would take a week of work to install the four-way stop.

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