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City, county, schools group talks potential solutions for the troublesome Crailsheim-Oxford intersection

Turn lanes would allow parents picking up or dropping off children a place to wait without impeding pass-through traffic, and would be significantly less expensive than, for example, a roundabout.

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Galen Smith, volunteer crossing guard, stands in front of the intersection of Oxford Street and Crailsheim Road, where he helps Worthington Middle School students get to class safely despite the traffic. (Kari Lucin / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Representatives of Nobles County, the city of Worthington, District 518 and Minnesota West Community & Technical College once again turned their attention Tuesday to a troublesome intersection near Worthington Middle School.

Nobles County Engineer and Director of Public Works Aaron Holmbeck offered some potential solutions to safety concerns at the junction of North Crailsheim Road and Oxford Street, also known as Nobles County 35, including turning lanes, a bypass lane and changing signage.

Turn lanes would allow parents picking up or dropping off children a place to wait without impeding pass-through traffic, and would be significantly less expensive than, for example, a roundabout.

Safety concerns at the intersection arose after a significant increase in activity there. Factors at work included development in the area, such as the Learning Center now in use, the Intermediate School set to open for the 2022-23 school year and the Community Education building currently under construction.

In addition, COVID-19 prompted changes to the school’s bussing policy, in turn prompting more kids to walk to school.

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Crossing guards were stationed at that intersection as well as at another crosswalk on Crailsheim Road, but even after that there have been some close calls, as many drivers go too fast, don’t pay attention or get angry about needing to stop.

Superintendent John Landgaard said he didn’t think the signs decreasing the speed limit as drivers head into town were far enough out to allow people to slow down before reaching the middle school.

“It’s the signage and the speed out there,” Landgaard said. “... I don’t know what the right speed is, but 30 would be a good start.”

The state will be reviewing the situation and evaluating speeds, Holmbeck said, adding that he’d prefer if they did their speed study when the Intermediate School opens in August, which would allow them to get a realistic sense of the traffic there.

The group floated a few other notions as well — putting in a roundabout, which might also reduce the amount of truck traffic there, or putting in a three-way stop, which Holmbeck said would likely back traffic up in both directions.

Adding flashing lights warning people to drive cautiously and slow down was also mentioned as a possibility, but Holmbeck warned those can sometimes have a boy-who-cried-wolf-effect — if they flash when no children are actually present, such as on weekends or at night, drivers will ignore them or stop noticing them entirely.

County Administrator Bruce Heitkamp agreed, and said he’d seen that elsewhere.

The city, county and school will continue working together on the issue.

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In other news Friday, the committee:

  • Learned that Nobles County has offered the library director position to candidate Beth Sorenson pending a background check, and that the county continues to move forward with its three-year strategic plan for the Nobles County Library.
  • Agreed to continue working together on common goals and common problems.
  • Learned that Minnesota West has three finalists for its provost position and that the college is also seeking a physical plant director.
  • Heard that the city is planning a number of street projects and redoing a trail at Olson Park.
  • Learned from Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle that the Southwest Minnesota Council of Mayors is proposing a five-year pilot program partly funded by the state of Minnesota for retaining workers in the area through supporting technical education and training. The program would allow students to enroll at Minnesota West to learn one of five targeted trades or occupations, and they would receive a tuition loan payment of $8,000 per year for a two-year course of study. Students would need to commit to work in that profession in the area for at least three years, and the repayment would be structured as a three-year forgivable loan. Targeted trades could include carpentry, HVAC, mechatronics, automotive trades, plumbing, auto tech, ag diesel and electricians. Heitkamp suggested adding child care to the list.
  • Learned that District 518 is still seeking a place for eight people’s offices during the remodeling of the administrative building, and that speech therapists are still needed.
READ MORE FROM KARI LUCIN

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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