ARVILLA, N.D. -- A proposal by the North Dakota Department of Transportation to change the configuration of an intersection on U.S. Highway 2 near Arvilla was met with vocal opposition at a public input meeting Tuesday at the town’s community center.
The NDDOT made the proposal to change the way the intersection is configured to reduce right-angle crashes. During the past 10 years there have been six crashes at the Turtle River State Park intersection, four of them right-angle crashes, said Aaron Murra, NDDOT engineer. Two of the right-angle crashes were fatal.
But the area residents at the meeting said the intersection was not unsafe and that changing it to a reduced conflict intersection would result in more accidents.
“There’s a big difference between perceived accidents and actual accidents,” said a man at the meeting.
He was one about 35 people who attended the meeting. Everyone in attendance appeared to be opposed to installation of the reduced conflict intersection and expressed frustration about the proposed $1.4 million project. They said changes in the intersection would cause more accidents because people would have to cross two lanes of traffic to turn left, and also that it would encourage truckers to avoid the intersection and instead travel a mile farther and use a gravel road to get to a grain elevator in Arvilla.
Arvilla Township Board member Larry Olson expressed concern that more travel on the gravel road would result in damage and the township would be responsible for the repairs.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation has proposed installing the reduced conflict intersection, also called a J-turn, removing the eastbound on-ramp at the intersection of County Road 2 and extending the turn lanes. The project area would be from 800 feet west of the west junction of Grand Forks Co. 2 to 600 feet east of the Turtle River State Park entrance. Illumination lighting also would be installed at the County Road 2 and Highway 2 intersection and at the Turtle River State Park entrance.
Right-angle crashes are the most severe, Murra said. While supplemental vehicle restraints reduce the severity of rear-end and side-swipe crashes, they don’t in right-angle crashes, he noted.
“If we have a high incidence of those and we have a way to eliminate them, that’s what we want to do," Murra said. “I’m not saying we’re going to reduce collisions. I’m saying it’s going to reduce right angles."
Reduced conflict intersections have been installed in at least 12 other states, including Minnesota, since the 1980s, said Will Stein, Federal Highway Administration-Minnesota safety engineer who spoke at the meeting. Twenty-seven already are in service and 15 more will be installed, he said. While reduced conflict intersections may seem like a major change for drivers, they actually are similar to interstate interchanges, Stein said.
“It’s not a lot different than what you see in freeway geometric design,” he said.
The number of fatal crashes at an intersection at Cologne, Minn., were reduced from five to zero after a reduced conflict intersection was installed, Stein said.
But the people at the meeting said the reduced conflict intersection would create more problems and increase the number of crashes, not reduce them. Meanwhile, they also questioned why the NDDOT wants to install another RCI only a few miles from where one proposed four years ago was dropped after no support from residents. Several people at the meeting told the NDDOT representatives that the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Grand Forks County 5, five miles west of Grand Forks, should warrant more concern than the U.S. Highway 2 and County Road 2 and Turtle River State Park intersection.
“If you want to make an improvement, do it at the (Grand Forks) airport,” said one man who spoke at the meeting.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation is accepting comments on the proposed reduced conflict intersection until July 31.
Statements can be sent to: James Rath
ND Department of Transportation
608 East Blvd. Ave.
Bismarck, N.D. 58505-0700