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Safety improvements slated for the Hwy. 12 ‘Corridor of Death’

October 1, 2018

The Highway 12 Safety Coalition launched a safety campaign in 2015 with the goal of going 12 months without a fatal crash on Hwy. 12 in the far west metro. The goal was finally reached in mid-September.

But the celebration was shortlived. Just days later, a pedestrian was struck on Sept. 20 in Cokato, Minn., and died a few days later.

The recent death was one of many in recent years that have occurred on the unforgiving segment of Hwy. 12 running from Wayzata all the way through Wright County. Between 2011 and 2016, records tallied 24 deaths and 239 people injured in a total of 811 crashes on that stretch of the highway.

Law enforcement and city leaders who make up the safety coalition have dubbed the rural two-lane highway that handles metro traffic volumes as the Corridor of Death and have been pushing hard for road improvements.

They are finally going to get them.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will announce Tuesday that the agency will build a concrete center median along a portion of Hwy. 12, install a roundabout at a dangerous intersection and redesign a third intersection to improve sightlines in 2021.

They are long overdue, said Sgt. Rick Denneson with the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, which serves Maple Plain and Independence. This 7- to 8-mile stretch of highway for whatever reason has been untouched. Its still a narrow highway with hills, curves and narrow shoulders and that has played into safety concerns we have raised.

Ideally, coalition members would like to see Hwy. 12 widened to four lanes from Maple Plain to Delano. But for now they will settle for the $22 million upgrades that are aimed at improving sightlines, improving traffic flow and most importantly, reducing crashes.

Specifically, the work will include installing a concrete median to separate eastbound and westbound traffic between County Road 6 and Baker Road in Maple Plain. It also will include a new roundabout at County Road 90, an intersection where state figures show a fatal and serious injury crash rate that is 1.5 times higher than average for similar intersections. In conjunction with Hennepin County, MnDOT will devise a plan to redo the problematic intersection marred with poor sightlines.

These are high-value projects with a high rate of return, said MnDOT project manager Dan Mattison. This has been a priority for a while and we can do them all in one construction season.We expect a big crash reduction.

Denneson said the drop in fatal crashes over the past year has resulted from an increased police presence along the highway and enforcement efforts. Its also the efforts put forth by the coalition brainstorming ways to achieve zero deaths along the corridor.

In 2016, MnDOT put in a concrete median divider to prevent crossover crashes between County Road 112 and County Road 6. The agency also put in left turn lanes at north and south junctions of County Road 92 in Independence. In 2014, a Rogers company put in centerline rumble strips at no cost to MnDOT from County Road 6 to the Maple Plain border and west of Maple Plain to County Line Road, the border between Delano and Independence.

Its never enough, he said. We know there is more work to be done. Crashes should not happen.

MnDOT will unveil its plans during an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Independence City Hall, 1920 County Road 90, Independence.

Tim Harlow 612-673-7768

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