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Goodhue County included in improved traffic warnings grant

By Wendy Reuer

Forum News Service

New signs in Minnesota will help alert drivers to approaching traffic in an effort to increase safety in rural areas.

The federal government has agreed to pick up the tab for of 15 "intersection conflict warning systems" across Minnesota.

The 15 signs will be fully funded by a $1.45 million Transportation Investment Generating Recovery grant, also known as TIGER grants.

"Based on the average daily traffic at these intersections, drivers and passengers in more than 80,000 vehicles will experience the added safety and security offered by these systems on a daily basis," said Sue Mulvihill, MnDOT deputy commissioner and chief engineer in a statement.

The systems are signs placed at all four sides of an intersection that light up to display a message alerting drivers to other vehicles also approaching the intersection.

District 4 of the Minnesota Department of Transportation — which includes the counties of Clay Douglas, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Big Stone and Becker — was one of the first in the state to post the traffic systems in 2011, said Tom Swenson, traffic engineer.

Swenson said the intersections were chosen not necessarily because of a high volume of crashes, but because the accidents that happened in those areas resulted in serious injuries or fatalities.

"We wanted to try and see if these would help reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes," he said.

Of the 15 systems, two are planned for Goodhue County at Highway 61 and County Road 21, and Minnesota Highway 19 and County Road 6.

Public Works Director Greg Isakson said the county will continue to work with MnDOT to find the best places to utilize the new technology.

The signs are a good idea because they only light up when traffic is approaching, making it less likely for drivers to become immune and start to ignore them, he said.

"Flashing lights works so long as they're not flashing all the time."

Republican Eagle reporter Michael Brun contributed to this story.