When a young girl became entangled in the wheels of a semi and dragged down a city block in Crookston, it portrayed the dangers of poorly designed thoroughfares and streets. It also showed that if work isn’t done in Crookston to ensure the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, other tragic incidents are sure to follow.
On Oct. 4, Kaylee Acevedo, 10, was struck by a truck making a right turn in downtown Crookston. The location is part of a confusing route for those unaccustomed to the city, which is dissected by busy Highway 2.
Although Crookston is a relatively small community – 7,700 residents – as many as 15,000 vehicles pass through its downtown each day. And while Highway 2 similarly cuts through many other cities on its east-west route across North Dakota and Minnesota, it’s unlikely other communities have such a convoluted, direction-changing twist as the one it takes in Crookston’s business district.
Acevedo was on her bicycle on the sidewalk when she was struck by a semi attempting a right turn. The trailer entered the sidewalk and Acevedo became entangled in its tires.
After years of concerns by residents and after many have acknowledged the dangers of traffic in downtown Crookston, the Acevedo incident has led to new pleas for change. For example, in a letter to the Crookston Times, Corene Everett said she is “heartbroken and angry.”
“For years, I have met with Bike Crookston and spoken at City Council meetings to advocate for safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, and yet the downtown streets have not been altered to calm traffic,” she wrote.
She said the corner at which Acevedo was struck has been “known to be a hazard for years” and that she doesn’t want “more meetings to discuss a plan that may or may not be implemented.”
Now discussions are underway for at least a temporary fix. Among the ideas are to close the right-turn lane at the intersection, or to tweak the signal timing. It’s a good start.
At a City Council meeting last week it was noted that a study is underway through the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Until the study is complete, it’s unlikely any permanent changes can be made.
MnDOT needs to expedite the study, and the City Council must make difficult and permanent decisions to ensure the safety of its residents.
Ironically, it was two years ago this week that the City Council and MnDOT discussed “traffic-calming” measures. As reported by the Crookston Times, MnDOT reps said they couldn’t find another small-town downtown built around three-lane, one-way streets – in Minnesota or anywhere else. They told city leaders there is no similar case study to which Crookston’s situation, and traffic, can be compared.
Back then, T.J. Melcher, a MnDOT director of public engagement, told the council that “We have to change the corridor to make it safer for pedestrians, motorists, businesses along the way, bicyclists … everybody,” the Times reported.
People of Crookston know the dangers of their downtown, and those who aren’t residents can get confused simply by driving through it on Highway 2. Without quick and decisive action by MnDOT and the council, the sad headlines will continue.