By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
Construction at Highway 212/284/County Road 53 to install an RCUT intersection in Cologne will begin earlier than expected this month.
Diane Langenbach of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) notified the city last week that the project is set to begin this coming Monday, Aug. 13. That date is earlier than initially expected, but the timetable has been advanced since Highway 5 is expected to reopen in Victoria at that time.
Cologne area business people are invited to a meeting regarding the project at 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 13 at Cologne City Hall to receive more information. A pre-construction meeting took place this week and Langenbach said she would have more details regarding the project to share at the business meeting.
The RCUT intersection design will block direct north/south access on Highway 284/County Road 53. However, dedicated U-turn lanes will allow drivers traveling north or south to take a short jog of approximately 800 feet down Highway 212 before making a U-turn and continuing on their way.
Drivers traveling east or west on Highway 212 will not experience any change in access to the city. Right and left turns will still be available.
The City of Cologne formally requested safety improvements at the intersection last summer after two fatal accidents last year and a spike in overall collisions. There have been six fatal accidents at the intersection in the last 10 years, and between 2006 and 2010 there were 19 crashes (including nine right-angle collisions).
According to MnDOT, RCUT or three-quarter intersections are highly effective at reducing accidents, including a 70 percent reduction of fatal accidents.
Even so, business owners, developers and city residents have expressed concern with the RCUT design, citing potential impacts to the city from what they believe is decreased access. Many have requested stop lights and/or lower speed limits instead of the RCUT, but according to MnDOT, studies have shown that stoplights have actually increased accidents at similar intersections elsewhere, and simply lowering the speed limit is also a dubious safety improvement as it creates higher speed differentials between those obeying the speed limit and those exceeding it.
While the redesign has created some concern, all have agreed that something must be done to improve safety at the intersection. MnDOT has said that if nothing was done to improve the situation another fatal accident at the intersection could justify closing it altogether.