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Longer lights an option to fix dangerous East Grand Forks intersection

Drivers may have to wait longer at the traffic lights at a busy East Grand Forks intersection. Longer-lasting red lights are among the options being considered to cure the accident prone intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Minnesota Highway 220, l...

Stoplight
(AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Drivers may have to wait longer at the traffic lights at a busy East Grand Forks intersection.

Longer-lasting red lights are among the options being considered to cure the accident prone intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Minnesota Highway 220, local officials learned during a Tuesday meeting with regional leaders of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The location has been designated the most dangerous signalized intersection in northwest Minnesotan by MnDOT. The designation is more about the number of accidents than the severity, since the intersection did not have a fatality from 2007 to 2009, the three years used as a measurement.

The accident frequency is more about the high volume of traffic than a dangerous setting, said MnDOT traffic engineer Bill Pirkl.

'All-red'

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The answer, he said, may be a longer "all-red." All-red is traffic-speak for the time -- usually two seconds -- when the lights are red in all four directions. With drivers paying less and less attention to yellow warning lights, Pirkl said an all-red that is a second or two longer would allow more traffic to clear the intersection before a green light.

The extra seconds would probably come from a shorter yellow, Pirkl said.

"You can't add too much all-red time because you don't want to increase the inefficiency of traffic flow," he said.

Although the intersection's crash rate per vehicle isn't necessarily high, Pirkl said something needs to be done to cut the number of collisions.

Bridge rehab

City officials learned that the Sorlie Bridge, connecting the Grand Forks and East Grand Forks downtowns, likely will be renovated rather than built new.

The reason, transportation district engineers Lynn Eaton said, is that the Sorlie is one of 24 Minnesota bridges that have been designated as having historical significance by the federal government.

Preservation leaders aren't likely to budge on those 24, Eaton said.

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"For it to be built new, there will have to be a real good reason that the Sorlie can't be rehabbed," Eaton said.

The Sorlie is scheduled for work in 2018. The Kennedy Bridge rehab is scheduled for 2016 and the Oslo Bridge replacement in 2013.

East Grand Forks City Council member Marc DeMers asked DOT to rebuild the Kennedy higher so it's "flood-proof," such as the new bridge at Drayton, N.D.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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