Highway 23 Coalition Supports Intersction Safety Study

The Highway 23 Coalition provided $5,000 toward the cost of the study at Highways 7 and 23 in Clara City. Chippewa County also contributed with the lionshare of the funding for the study coming from MnDOT. The following article was shared in the Clara City Herald on October 27th, 2021. 

MnDOT releases findings on Hwy. 23, Hwy. 7 intersection study

By: Sam Peterson of the Clara City Herald / October 27, 2021

Short term recommendations do not include major construction.

For more than a year, MnDOT has been working on completing an intersection study on Hwy. 23 and Hwy. 7 in an effort to make the intersection more safe. Recently on Oct. 20, they released their final findings for the intersection that features a number of small changes, but no major construction. MnDOT also made sure to include a number of other large construction options, like constructing a roundabout, if safety issues continue to persist after the small changes. 

Before MnDOT dove head first into the intersction study, they hosted an online survey of motorists who regularly use the intersection in February of last year. A total of 666 people completed the survey. Of those surveyed, the most common concern was the general saftey and cash reduction of the intersection. 

When they were asked what the best solution would be, the answers were all across the board, with a roundabout getting the most votes with 88, but the next option was leaving the intersection as is, which received 78 votes. A traffic signal earned 72 votes and 61 people said a combination of options would be the best fit. 

An in-depth study was performed on the past and future traffic at the intersection of Hwy. 23 and Hwy. 7. They also looked into the Minnesota Crash Mapping Analysis Tool on the intersection from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2020. According to the tool, there were 12 toatl crashes at the intersection, but this past summer there were three more that weren't included in the original study, but MnDOT made sure to retoactively go back and look into those three accidents.

It was also found a crash rate at the intersection of 0.29, compared to the state average of 0.065. The intersection also had a critical crash severity rate of 6.51, compared to the state average of 0.35.

Before making a determination, MnDOT looked into four distinct possibilities for the intersection. The first was leaving the intersection as a two-way stop, but updating stop signs. The second option was to update stop signs and make the intersection an all-way stop. The third option was to install traffic signals at the intersection. The fourth and most extensive option was to create a roundabout.

MnDOT suggested no major changes, but did offer an intersection control plan with seven seperate recommendations. The first was to review and analyze the final crash data from this summer as they become available. The second reccomendation was to replace the red flashing beacon stop signs with flashing LED stop signs on the Hwy. 23 approaches. Recommendation No. 3 is to review and analyze current rural intersection conflict warning system to determine if it should be removed. The fourth recommendation is to review existing signs on all approaches to determine if any can be removed to reduce sign cluter that may distract motorists from the intersection. MnDOT's fifth recommendation is to review existing pavement markings to determine if any need to be replaced or updated. The sixth recommendation is to have MnDOT work with Clara City staff to improve pedestrian facilities on Division Street to reduce vehicle and pedestrian conflicts. The final recommendation is for the city to consider changing the intersection control to an all-way stop, adding LED stop signs to Hwy. 7 approaches. 

While MnDOT did not recommend any large scale, major changes, they did make sure to remind Clara City staff to continue to monitor the safety of the intersection while the seven recommendations are being worked on. If the severity of crashes increases in the future, MnDOT suggests a roundabout should be considered for a long-term solution.