WORTHINGTON — Nobles County commissioners spent considerable time during a Thursday morning work session discussing traffic concerns on Crailsheim Road and its intersection with Nobles County 35 (Oxford Street) near the Worthington Middle School.
Starting in early May and continuing through August, Crailsheim Road will serve as a detour route during reconstruction of the three Minnesota 60 roundabouts on Worthington’s east side. The detour will add to an already busy Crailsheim Road with housing construction taking place at Six Fairway View and the Cherrywood Addition, housing development underway for the Glenwood Heights Second Addition and Wagner Addition — both of which are south of the existing Glenwood Heights neighborhood — and ongoing construction at the new Worthington Intermediate School.
Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder also noted the city’s planned water main construction project planned in the area this summer, as well as a gas main project.
With all of the activity along Crailsheim Road, Schnieder is hopeful vehicle traffic will slow down. Speed limits on the road, however, will go unchanged for now.
County Administrator Tom Johnson asked when it would be the right time to do a new speed study on the roadway.
“Doing it while construction is going on doesn’t really give them a clear picture,” Schnieder responded, suggesting a new speed study be conducted after the intermediate school opens in the fall of 2022.
“We’re seeing a lot of activity that will change over the next couple of years,” Schnieder said, adding that with current busing restrictions due to COVID-19, more children are being transported to school by private vehicle. That's anticipated to change once restrictions are lifted.
Turn lanes, curb and gutter planned
Schnieder said several safety improvements are planned for Crailsheim Road this year, including creation of a designated left-hand turn lane for southbound vehicles turning onto Collegeway and further construction of curb and gutter along Crailsheim Road. Both of these, he said, will encourage people to slow down. There will also be a right-turn lane created at the entrance to the schools for vehicles traveling from the north, as well as left-turn lanes for vehicles coming from the south.
Middle School lineup
The issue of people parking along Nobles County 35 to pick up students after school was also raised as a concern Thursday. Commissioner Donald Linssen said that on multiple days he counted more than 40 vehicles lined up along the highway, waiting to pull into the middle school’s north lot.
Schnieder said parents should be encouraged to not arrive a half-hour early, only to sit and wait for their student to exit the building after class.
“Maybe they could close the lot off and people can’t come in the lot until a certain time,” Schnieder said. “The kids can wait in the school. The parents … don’t have to be the first ones there.”
While it won’t clear up the problem, Schnieder said the county will do new striping on Oxford Street — north of the middle school — this year. The project will include the creation of a left-hand turn lane into the teacher’s parking lot for westbound vehicles.
Drivers lining up to pick up students isn’t just an issue at the middle school. Schnieder said it also exists on First Avenue Southwest at Prairie Elementary. There, the parking lot is larger, so the problem isn’t as dramatic as at the middle school.
In addition to the issue of vehicles lining up along Oxford Street, Schnieder also noted continued issues with drivers not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk by the middle school — even with crossing guards in place.
“Crossing guards are found to be more of a deterrent than most other options,” Schnieder said, adding that drivers haven’t been yielding until the crossing guard is actually in the roadway.
When one commissioner asked about installing a traffic light at the Oxford Street and Crailsheim Road intersection, Schnieder said the state wouldn’t allow it because the problem exists for such a brief window of time — before and after school.
“Do you inconvenience everybody 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or do you manage the problem?” Schnieder asked. “Stoplights actually have a tendency to make intersections more dangerous. To fix one problem often creates a different type of problem.”
As an example, Schnieder said roundabouts eliminate roughly 80% of serious injury crashes, but at the same time, the number of sideswipe crashes and fender benders increases considerably.
“It’s a lot safer, it just has other problems you’ve created,” he added.
Starting in early May, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will begin work to reconstruct the elevation of the curb line in the centers of the three Worthington roundabouts. It will begin with the northernmost roundabout at Minnesota 60 and Interstate 90, then proceed to the roundabout at Oxford Street before moving on to the roundabout at Nobles County State Aid Highway 35. Initially, the plan was to redo all three at the same time, noted Schnieder, which would have caused a significant disruption to traffic flow.
Schnieder explained that the work is being done because the elevation of the curb in the center of the roundabouts is too steep. When semi tractor-trailers hit the curb, it can cause a load shift. There have been several semi rollovers in the roundabouts since they were built, though Schnieder said speed may have also been a factor in some of those cases.
“They’re going to take the curb out and redo the concrete center and the transition curb to get onto it,” Schnieder explained of the work. “I think once that’s done, the trucks won’t be trying to take up both lanes to avoid getting up on that curb.”
The work is slated to be done by the end of August.