Letter to the editor: Rethinking rumble strips
By: From Lee Radzak, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
Rumble strips were installed on several new stretches on Highway 61 (the North Shore Scenic Drive) over the last two years, either as centerline rumble strips or on the shoulders. The noise level from vehicles hitting the rumble strips can be heard several miles from the actual roadway and impacts the quality of life for residents and visitors in the highway corridor. It is appropriate for MNDOT to rethink the design and placement of the rumble strips on this route.
Distracted driving by drivers using cell phones is the main reason for the need for the rumble strips. Some MnDOT officials refer to them as “texting strips” and the major reason for their installation was due to the inattention of drivers texting on their cell phones while driving. Rumble strips were developed as a warning but they are not a deterrent to distracted driving.
While rumble strips make good sense on many long, straight roads in many parts of Minnesota Highway 61 should be considered in a different category with different considerations. It is designated as an All-American Roadway, which means that it is a destination in itself for many who drive it. Also, a majority of the population of Lake and Cook Counties live along the North Shore within the Highway 61 corridor. In addition to the residents who live along the corridor there are the campers, hikers, kayakers, bicyclists, and picnickers using the seven state parks, the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, the Superior Hiking Trail, or visiting the small communities along the North Shore. They are subjected to the constant yet unpredictable and jolting noise of vehicles clipping the rumble strips or hitting them while passing other vehicles. The shoulder rumbles are installed way too close to the driving lanes, a mere 4” outside of the white painted fog lines, while on some other roadways in the state they are installed 12”, or even 16” from the fog line. The semi-trucks, RV’s, and boat trailers clip them on most curves along the route.
There is little doubt that rumble strips help keep drivers from straying from the driving lanes. There is no doubt that they have helped save lives. For them to remain in MNDOT’s arsenal of safety enhancements they will need to be redesigned to be an acceptable aggravation. In one of MnDOT’s technical memorandums on rumble strips they state that the noise level generated by properly constructed rumble strips is comparable to that of a truck passing by. I would suggest that along Highway 61 the rumble strips were installed too deeply, too near to the driving lane, and along a route that deserves higher esthetic and design considerations. MNDOT did such a wonderful job of calming traffic and reducing clutter and noise in all of its recent projects on Highway 61 it is a wonder that they, or local residents, would allow the jarring racket of rumble strips to remain on this route.