Signs may go high techNew state-of-the art digital road signs will be tested this summer at Highway 52 and County Road 9 in Leon Township.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
New state-of-the art digital road signs will be tested this summer at Highway 52 and County Road 9 in Leon Township.
University of Minnesota and Department of Transportation staff collecting data at the intersection for several years call it one of the most dangerous in the state.
“People stop, they look — but they don’t see,” said Max Donath with the U of M Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute. “That’s one of the major problems we have at this intersection.”
The institute has developed an innovative set of signs that will flash an alert to drivers crossing Highway 52 if a vehicle is nearby.
A red warning will flash when the oncoming car is too close and crossing the intersection — a divided highway — is unsafe.
Vehicle height, length and speed will be monitored via sensor and taken into account before the sign flashes its signal.
“Nobody has ever seen anything like this before,” said Goodhue County Public Works Director Greg Isakson.
The signs are intended as a safety feature, not to replace good driving habits, Donath said.
“We are still relying on you stopping and using your own brain,” he added.
Donath said the project and research — paid for with federal dollars — is expected to cost $6 million over six years.
The project is part of a larger federal highway study aimed at developing better and safer highway signage.
Thirty drivers in specially equipped vehicles will begin testing the signs in August. Only those vehicles can engage the signs, so others drivers will not be affected.
Depending on their success, the signs may become a regular feature at intersections across the country, Isakson said.
Isakson was unsure when the signs would be turned on for regular use but said officials will wait until “their confidence level is high enough.”
Goodhue County Commissioner Richard Samuelson, who represents Leon Township, said any improvements along Highway 52 are a good thing.
The commissioner for years has been advocating for safety improvements along the stretch of highway.
“I agree with them that it’s a darn dangerous intersection,” Samuelson said. “I’m glad they’re trying to do something. Maybe it will work.
“If it works it will be a great thing. And let’s hope it does.”
Meanwhile, plans for an interchange at Highway 52 and County Road 24 in Cannon Falls continue to progress.
County officials say the multi-million dollar project will provide safer access to businesses and homes as the city grows.
“We have more people who get hurt crossing 52. It’s not a good situation,” Isakson said. “Anything we can do to take one of our intersections and improve it is a good thing.”