WORTHINGTON -- Anyone who has ever had to pass through the intersection of Diagonal Road and Oxford Street to get to work or school in the morning can attest to the frustrations of stop and go traffic and motorists who don't wait their turn.
During the school year, student drivers and busses add to the congestion, but part of the problem is hoped to be alleviated by the time the new school year begins.
Nobles County Public Works director Stephen Schnieder received approval earlier this week to create left-hand turn lanes on Diagonal Road at the Oxford Street intersection. The work primarily involves painting lines on the roadway to delineate lanes, although some curb and gutter work may be necessary on the northwest corner of the intersection to make a more pronounced right-hand turn lane.
Schnieder said making improvements at the intersection has been discussed by the traffic and safety committee in the past, but finding the time to get something done was always an issue.
"Sometimes these smaller projects are set aside until we do some bigger projects," he said. "We have some time available because of scheduling of some of our projects, and we can actually do the work that doesn't take up a lot of man hours."
Overall, the cost of the project is expected to be close to $5,000 -- an amount financed by the county because both Diagonal Road and Oxford Street are considered county state aid highways. The county performs maintenance on Diagonal Road north of Oxford Street and Oxford Street west of Diagonal Road, while the city is responsible for the south and east directions from the crossroads.
"This is a low-cost, cost-effective solution to make peoples' lives a little bit safer and easier," Schnieder said. "The intent is to try and move traffic a little bit more. When the public has more delays, they become inpatient and might move ahead a little faster."
Traffic volumes have picked up at the crossroads in recent years because of more development in that area of town and increased traffic coming off Interstate 90.
"As traffic volume increases, you tend to have more accidents," Schnieder said. The Diagonal Road-Oxford Street crossroads is not characterized, however, as a high-crash-count intersection.
In the last decade, Schnieder said 24 crashes have occurred at, or near, the Diagonal Road and Oxford Street intersection.
Worthington Director of Public Safety Mike Cumiskey said his department responded to two crashes at the crossroads during the past year. Neither of those crashes resulted in injuries.
Still, Cumiskey said, adding the new turn lanes will help improve safety.
"I'm sure it will help just to get people to commit to a certain lane usage," he added.
Schnieder said one positive aspect of the intersection is that it is "fairly wide and open." Both of those features will make it easier for crews to establish pronounced turn lanes on Diagonal Road. The county will work with the city to develop a design for the turn lanes on the project, which is expected to get under way sometime in August.
In addition to the added striping at the Diagonal Road and Oxford Street intersection, Schnieder said his department is looking at the potential to add right-hand turn lanes on Crailsheim Drive, particularly at the entrance to Worthington Middle School and where it intersects with other streets.
"We're also looking at similar situations in communities in other parts of the county," Schnieder added. "Traffic volumes are a driving factor in whether we need to do this. In some of the smaller towns, we don't have those higher traffic volumes."