Starting next year, getting onto Highway 169 from St. Peter’s north end is going to be different.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans major improvements to two of the highway’s intersections and closing or restricting turning movements at four other nearby crossings.
The effect of the changes, MnDOT hopes, will be to reduce the unusually high crash rates in the area.
The project will also coincide with the construction of the city’s first roundabout, at St. Julien Street and Old Minnesota Avenue, near a McDonald’s restaurant and Holiday gas station.
An open house was held Monday evening in St. Peter to let interested residents and business owners learn more about the project.
The most noticeable upgrades to Highway 169 will be at St. Julien Street and Highway 22, where MnDOT will install so-called “restricted crossing U-turn” intersections. This will prevent drivers from taking left turns onto Highway 169 or going straight across. Instead, drivers will take a right, drive about 700 feet and then make a U-turn.
The exits from Highway 169 onto local streets are unaffected.
The benefit of this type of intersection is that it removes the most dangerous crossings, which require drivers to find gaps across four lanes of traffic.
“It makes you deal with the conflicts separately,” said Zachary Tess, a project manager at MnDOT.
These two intersections are being targeted because they are more dangerous than others of their type. From 2002 through 2011, there were 37 crashes at Highway 169’s intersection with Highway 22 and 41 crashes at St. Julien Street.
A federal study showed that the restricted crossing intersections showed a 42 percent reduction in injury-causing crashes and a 70 percent reduction in fatal crashes.
In a larger sense, this project was triggered by the flooding of 2010, which closed roads statewide and prompted MnDOT to set aside $50 million to help roads stay open during floods.