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As others see it: Action needed on street lights project

How long does it take to find another contractor?

That's what we're left wondering after more than a year has passed with street lights at several rural intersections left unlit.

MnDOT commissioned a study of the safety of rural intersections as part of its efforts to reduce the number of deaths on state roads. What the study found won't be surprising to anyone who spends significant time on Rice County roads: Rural roads are less safe than urban ones, in part because of the lighting.

MnDOT set aside money to erect lighting at key rural intersections throughout not only Rice County but all of southeastern Minnesota.

But the lights are still unlit. The best explanation MnDOT representatives gave the Daily News was that they were "working through the legal process" to get a different contractor on the job. The original contractor was Affordable Electric out of Roseau.

One year after the project began is a long time to wait for a new contractor. It raises the question of whether the bidding process could've included a way to let bids regionally for each area in which poles were erected. A local contractor would think twice before stiffing the state in his own backyard. In the meantime, at least five intersections around Faribault remain in the dark.

The statistics don't lie: In rural intersections where there have been streetlights installed, there is a reduction of night-time crashes by more than 40 percent.

It's time for MnDOT to live up to its promise of working to-ward zero deaths on state roads and get a new contractor for the rural intersection lighting project.

Faribault Daily News