Frequently asked questions
There was recent construction on the three Hwy 14 intersections in Eagle Lake. Why is another project needed already?
In 2016, safety improvements were made for the intersections of Hwy 14 with CR 56 (addition of a westbound 1,500’ acceleration lane and offset eastbound right turn lane), CR 55 (construction of a 3/4 intersection), CR 17 (construction of an RCUT, also referred to as J-Turn). Since the completion of those intersection upgrades, the frequency and severity of crashes at both CR 55 and CR 17 have decreased. However, the Hwy 14/CR 56 intersection continues to experience a high frequency of crashes, including fatal and serious injury crashes.
What's happening at the Hwy 14/CR 56 intersection that's causing crashes?
Northbound CR 56 motorists who are attempting to turn left onto westbound Hwy 14 are all too frequently getting hit by eastbound Hwy 14 traffic, despite previous improvements aimed to help the left turning movements. Any options considered for improving this intersection need to have a high probability of preventing this particular type of crash.
Wouldn’t reducing the speed limit on Hwy 14 through Eagle Lake help solve the crash problem?
While that’s often a common question or comment, speed signs do not drastically change driver behavior. The roadway environment influences driver speed. A wide median and ditch, trees set far from the roadway, and an overall open space with greater sight lines naturally creates a high-speed environment. While a narrow median, landscaping, buildings, and overall tighter corridor causes drivers to inherently slow down. Given the more rural, open environment of Hwy 14 through Eagle Lake, drivers feel comfortable driving 65 mph vs. 50 mph or other lower speed.
MnDOT has also found that unreasonable speed limits can increase crashes. Some motorists will drive the posted speed limit, while most will drive a reasonable speed for the environment. The extreme speed variances lead to an increased risk of crashes.
If a posted speed limit is reasonable for the environment, it’s also most likely to produce uniform speeds and a safer roadway. The current 65 mph for Hwy 14 in Eagle Lake is conducive to the environment and is most effective for uniform speeds.
How about installing a flasher system like those on Hwy 60, between Waterville and I-35?
The flasher systems that warn highway traffic of entering vehicles, and correspondingly warn side road motorists of approaching traffic on the highway, are known as Rural Intersection Conflict Warning Systems (RICWS). These systems were experimental and analyzed statewide for five years. In 2019 it was concluded that the RICWS don’t provide any net crash reduction benefit.
Why isn't an interchange one of the proposed options?
Due to existing geographic limitations (lake), coupled with existing development (Casey’s gas station), construction of an interchange at the CR 56 intersection isn’t feasible. Additionally, with insufficient financial resources to address all the identified needs, MnDOT needs to be strategic in its use of available funding. Moderate cost solutions, such as the three concepts currently being considered for the CR 56 intersection, yield nearly equivalent safety and operations performance as that of an interchange and allow MnDOT to improve ten intersections for the cost of one rural interchange.
Why would MnDOT propose solutions that reduce access (available turning movements) at the intersection?
There is a direct relationship between access and crashes; the more turning movements that are available at an intersection, the greater the likelihood of crashes. By reducing available turning movements, the intersection’s safety will be improved.
Why not add acceleration lanes?
Unfortunately, due to decreasing gas tax revenues for MnDOT (vehicles are more fuel efficient now, and people buy less fuel) and inflation (the gas tax isn’t indexed for inflation, but the materials needed for construction keep getting more expensive), MnDOT does not have sufficient funding to adequately maintain the existing State highway system, let alone address all of the needs that the system has. Acceleration lanes are typically warranted when four-lane highway volumes exceed 40,000 vehicles per day. Currently this portion of Hwy 14 has roughly 20,000 vehicles/day, and while it would be nice to have acceleration lanes, MnDOT can’t afford to add unwarranted elements when needs are going unmet.
Will an RCUT solve the crash problems at CR 56? With CR 56 traffic frequently being hit by eastbound Hwy 14 traffic, it might seem like an RCUT won’t solve the existing crash problem, because CR 56 motorists destined for westbound Hwy 14 still need to cross the eastbound lanes to access the turn lane serving the U-turn.
Currently, there’s a significant mental load required for CR 56 traffic to access westbound Hwy 14:
- Find and evaluate a gap in eastbound Hwy 14 traffic
- If unfamiliar with the intersection, identify the presence of the westbound acceleration lane
- If the acceleration lane is not detected, find and evaluate a gap in westbound Hwy 14 traffic
- Ensure that left-turning westbound Hwy 14 traffic won’t be occupying the median crossover when you’re trying to enter the median
An RCUT eliminates all but the first item above. Additionally, if a crash occurs at an RCUT, it’s more likely to be a lower-severity sideswipe or rear end crash, versus a right angle (T-bone) type crash, which tend to result in serious injuries or death. National studies of RCUTs have shown an average 70% reduction in fatalities, and a 42% reduction in injury crashes at intersections converted to RCUTs. Minnesota’s crash reduction experience has been even better.