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Researchers Urge Caution During Construction on Stretch of I-94 With High Crash Rate

March 31, 2017 06:43 PM

As construction ramps up along I-94 in Minneapolis, a team of University of Minnesota researchers is urging caution.

Minnesota Traffic Observatory research shows a particular stretch of I-94, roughly from the 35W/I-94 merge to just past Portland Avenue, has the highest crash rate in the metro area with more than 150 crashes per year.

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Which makes it even more important for drivers in that area to remain focused on the road. 

"People are not perfect drivers. Even the people who claim to be perfect drivers are not perfect drivers," MTO director John Hourdos said.

"We all daydream for a second, play with the radio, talk to the kid. 99 percent of the time the traffic conditions around us are forgiving. Nothing happens, so our momentary lapse of attention goes unnoticed.

"But there are places, like I-94 westbound in downtown Minneapolis, that such lapses of attention are not forgiven."

RELATED: I-94 Project to Start Monday

Hourdos said that particular stretch features conditions that make crashes more likely.

"This location over the years, because of changes in demand, evolved to produce different causal factors that, when they're combined, ... create these conditions where the probability of a crash for people who drive as usual is much higher than anywhere else," he said.

Hourdos has studied that stretch of interstate for more than a decade. He does it with high-tech cameras perched atop nearby high-rises.

What he called an army of undergraduates then watch the video and enter the data.

"We needed to understand what actually happens and what are the conditions that are precipitating the crash," Hourdos said.

In conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, researchers have already reduced the number of crashes in the area by about 22 percent - simply by using well-placed signs urging drivers to slow down.

But he is not sure how construction on I-94, as well as other projects planned for the area over the next four years, will impact crash rates.

"Anything that we learned so far about why crashes are happening in this particular location is gone," Hourdos said.

Credits

Josh Rosenthal

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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