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Rumble strips still a hot issue

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According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, rumble strips save lives. They alert drivers who have veered from their lanes and can reduce "run off the road" crashes by 40%.

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According to some local residents, rumble strips are just plain noisy. But a technical memorandum from MnDOT from November of 2011 says that all new construction on rural highways where the speed limit is 55 should include rumble strips. This includes new sections of Highway 61 north of Two Harbors that have been under construction this summer.

MnDOT officials were at the county board meeting on Tuesday to lay out their plans for rumble strips and ask the commissioners for input. Commissioner Rich Sve and Commissioner Paul Bergman raised concerns about the noise rumble strips cause, especially in the more heavily populated area along Highway 61. In an area known for its serenity, the noisy rumble strips are a concern, Bergman said.

"You want people to hear the loons, not the rumble strips," Bergman said.

Commissioner Rick Goutermont was firmly on the side of the MnDOT.

"I think about how every time I hear that sound, it's saving somebody," he said.

He recently visited two separate residents in a different part of the county who had been very opposed to rumble strips being added to the highway in front of their homes. Now that the strips are there, he said, the residents have no complaints and the sounds are no louder than a normal vehicle passing by.

While they had MnDOT's ear, the commissioners brought up one of the biggest problem intersections in the county: where Highway 3 meets Highway 61 just north of Betty's Pies.

"This corner the last two years has been terrible," Commissioner Brad Jones said.

Two accidents have resulted in fatalities there. The MnDOT officials said they've looked at the intersection but don't know how much more can be done or when improvements could take place.

They did say the bridge just south of the intersection crossing Stewart River is slated for improvement in the next two years. It will be widened carefully, since it's an historic bridge that can't be torn out and replaced. They also hope to add a bypass lane on the northbound side where Betty's Pies located.

The MnDOT officials in attendance were Duane Hill, district 1 highway engineer, Todd Campbell, district project manager, Rob Ege, district traffic engineer and Derek Fredrickson, district 1 project engineer.

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