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MnDOT unveils new intersection design to reduce congestion, decrease crashes

June 14, 2019 10:20 PM

An intersection unlike any other in the state is going in just north of the metro.

It's called a signalized reduced conflict intersection, and the goal is to reduce crashes and cut congestion.

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It's going in where Highway 65 meets Viking Boulevard in East Bethel, and people who live and work in that area know the commute can be a sore subject.

"It's very busy, it gets very backed up," said Amy Hausker, who works at Central Trailer Sales in East Bethel. "It's supposed to really reduce the amount of accidents."

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), Highway 65 and Viking Boulevard is one of the 200 worst intersections in the state for crashes, and that's one of the reasons for the new design. 

"It's pretty straightforward after you drive through a few times, but it's not normal," said Sheila Kauppi, with MnDOT.

Kauppi says, too often drivers here are trying to beat traffic crossing Highway 65. With the new design, nothing will change for drivers traveling north and south. If you're on Viking Boulevard looking to cross the highway, you'll have to turn right, make a u-turn, then turn again to get back onto Viking.

"What we heard from the public is they want more green time, nobody wants to wait at signals, right," Kauppi said.

This may be an adjustment for drivers, but experts say this design will reduce the potential for "T-bone" crashes, decrease the amount of time you wait at the intersection, and move cars through more quickly.

On similar intersections, research shows a reduction of up to 70 percent in fatal crashes, and 42 percent in crashes with injuries. Plus, MnDOT stresses it's about 5 times cheaper than building an interchange. 

"It is efficient, it's very safe, and from a cost standpoint it is quite a bit cheaper," Kauppi said.

Hausker tried it out and agrees there will be some adjustment, but she's optimistic people will get the hang of it and it'll be a good addition to the community.

"When you go through that signalized one, you got to move over real quick to get to your U-turn," Hausker said. "If it helps with the traffic and alleviates those accidents it's great, it's just going to take some getting used to, that's all."

MnDOT tells us their plan is to build more intersections like these across the state.

If you want a closer look at how they work, you'll find a link to the project page here.

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Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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