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State makes case for roundabout in Luverne

MnDOT: Roundabout would lesson crash severity
Lead Summary
Mavis Fodness

State transportation officials have decided a roundabout in Luverne would reduce crashes at the intersection of Highway 75 and Main Street.
Stoplights are due to be replaced at roughly $475,000. The state is instead considering a $900,000 roundabout as a safer solution.
The recommendation is based on a recent traffic study that was discussed at at a Nov. 16 meeting of county and city leaders with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The study is the result of a planned 2.5-mile resurfacing project scheduled for 2025 on Highway 75 from Main Street to Veterans Drive.
As part of that project, engineers looked at traffic corridors along the project route and ordered a closer look at the Main-75 intersection this summer.
“The signal at this location has met its useful life,”  said Ronda Allis, MnDOT District 7 planning director.
“And instead of coming back in and doing a signal replacement, it made sense to come back and look to see if there are other intersection improvements that made more sense at this location as this project gets closer to construction.”
Robert Jones is the project manager for the 2025 Highway 75 project as well as the resurfacing project from Luverne to Trosky scheduled for 2028.
He assured county and city leaders that they’d have a voice in the process.
“What we are doing is presenting these alternatives to you — you guys help us decide what you want here,” Jones said.
“This is not the days of old when MnDOT was coming in here and saying ‘we are going to do this because we think it is the best.’ We might think there is one that is the best and may tell you which one is the best but we want to make sure we know what is wanted locally.”
At the Nov. 16 meeting the engineers outlined various types of intersection controls, applied “level of service” value and installation costs. They also reviewed the crash history at the current intersection controlled by traffic signals.
They said baseline data shows a roundabout would be the best alternative when compared to the current and other traffic light configurations.
Current system: ‘Above average crash rate’
MnDOT Traffic Engineer Ross Baker said data from vehicle counts and traffic movements over a 24-hour period earned the current traffic signal configuration a “C” rating, meaning a driver may wait an average of 17 to 24 seconds to move through the intersection, depending on the time of day.
By contrast, traffic moves through a compact, single-lane roundabout in 4 to 8 seconds, an “A” rating, the best grade possible on the scale where “F” is the worst.
At a 15-mph speed limit, studies show a roundabout would decrease the current crash rate by 68 percent.
A total of 22 crashes have been reported at the 75-Main intersection from 2016 to 2020, two of which involved pedestrians who were injured.
“This was above the average crash rate for similar intersections and right around the ‘critical crash rate’ where we think it has sufficient crash problems,” Baker said.
Most of the crashes occurred as drivers turned in front of another driver who was going straight through the intersection.
On average, about 12,000 vehicles pass through the intersection in the 24-hour period. Twelve percent of the traffic is heavy truck traffic.
In the next 20 years, traffic is expected to increase.
Various intersections come with cost
Keeping the current traffic light configuration would cost $475,000, the least expensive option.
Three traffic light configurations were presented and involved adding left and/or right turn lanes on County Road 4.
Each would enlarge the intersection to create larger turn lanes for heavy trucks.
Costs for these alternatives were estimated at $801,000 to $877,000 and may involve removing recent city boulevard aesthetic improvements.
Because constraints surround the intersection, MnDOT officials recommended a “compact roundabout,” in which heavy truck traffic could drive over its center. Cost would be $900,000.
Decision to be made by end of year
In addition to the baseline data of intersection options and costs, the study also takes into consideration social and economic factors, pedestrian crossings and other factors such as right-of-way impacts, utilities and ease of navigation. This information will be added through additional talks with local officials.
The baseline data gives the current traffic signal an overall neutral score by MnDOT engineers. The other traffic configurations also have an overall neutral score. Only the roundabout receives a positive score.
City and county officials questioned the baseline data and the suggestion that the current 75-Main intersection needs to change.
“Are we trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing?” said County Administrator Kyle Oldre.
MnDOT project manager Jones said a decision is needed by the end of the year in order to have final designs and plans ready for the 2025 construction season.
Council members and commissioners plan to pass resolutions by next month indicating which traffic configuration they support.

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