New intersection now open in Cologne

The new Reduced Conflict Intersection (RCI), formerly called the RCUT or three-quarters intersection, is now open in Cologne at Highway 212 and Highway 284/County Road 53. Crews are still stabilizing ditches and finishing clean-up work, but the site became fully operational on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

The intersection maintains all access points off of Highway 212, but eliminates left turns onto Highway 212 from Highway 284 and County Road 53 and direct crossing of Highway 212 in a north and south direction. Rather, north and southbound drivers must take a right on Highway 212, then make a U-turn in the dedicated U-turn lanes before proceeding on their way.

After the City of Cologne voiced concern about safety at the intersection in 2011 following two fatal accidents at the site and 19 crashes from 2006-2010, the Minnesota Department of Transportation introduced the plan for the RCI intersection to improve safety.

Cologne businesses and developer Hans Hagen voiced skepticism about the design due to concerns about economic impacts from reduced access, but ultimately the need to improve safety at the intersection overruled those objections and MnDOT went ahead with construction.

Had another fatal accident occurred at the intersection in its previous format, MnDOT told city officials that the intersection could have been closed altogether.

Various other options, such as installing a stoplight or reducing the speed limit in the area, were ruled out due to MnDOT studies in other areas that showed such improvements at similar sites did nothing to improve safety and in some cases actually made the intersection more dangerous.

The project had an approximate cost of $1.3 million. Funding was available for construction this year, while installation of a stoplight would not have been possible for several years.