Design chosen for Hwy 14, Co. Rd. 9 intersection
Just because the expansion of Highway 14 from Owatonna to Dodge Center has been completed doesn’t mean that work on the highway is completed.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is planning construction for Highway 14 between Dodge Center and Byron in 2024 and the final design for the intersection has been chosen.
The main feature of the project is a reduced conflict intersection (RCI), also known as a J-turn, at the intersection of the highway and County Road 9 in Olmsted County. The project also includes pavement resurfacing between Kasson and Byron and the installation of a high-tension cable median barrier between Dodge Center and Kasson.
There have been 18 crashes at the intersection in the past 10 years, according to MnDOT officials. Three of these involved injuries and one was a fatality. Based on this crash history, MnDOT District 6 received federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funding to reduce the risk of a serious crash at this intersection and to improve safety. MnDOT traffic engineers took a closer look at the intersection and found that 42% of the crashes were angle crashes.
An angle crash, also called a T-bone, broadside or perpendicular crash, is the most common and severest type of crash. Looking at potential solutions, a J-turn quickly surfaced as the preferred because they are specifically designed to reduce angle crashes, officials said.
“A J-turn at this intersection is not only the most cost-effective solution here, but it’s also very safe. J-turns are proven to significantly reduce the potential for fatal crashes,” said Michael Schweyen, MnDOT District 6 Traffic Engineer.
MnDOT data shows an 86 percent reduction in fatalities and a 46 percent reduction in injury crashes at intersections where J-turns are constructed. They are also much less expensive to build than an interchange or an overpass and impact less adjacent farmland.
Two J-turn designs were considered by MnDOT — one with a direct left turn to County Road 9 and the other without a direct left, which would require those turning left off the highway to use the median U-turn. The MnDOT team met with local residents and township boards in May 2022. In these conversations MnDOT heard concerns about the visibility at the intersection with the hill to the west, the narrow median, and how the J-turn would work for farm vehicles.
Based on the feedback, MnDOT announced in January that they would proceed with the alternative that allows the direct lefts off the highway. The design will include 8-foot wide shoulders on the turn lanes to accommodate farm equipment crossing the highway, so tractors up to 20 feet wide can stay out of the travel lanes. The placement of the westerly median U-turn will be further up the hill and provide better visibility for turning vehicles.
“We want to make sure people can get home safe at night, and that anyone driving large farm equipment can go where they need to go comfortably,” said MnDOT project manager Tom Austin.
With the new J-turn intersection, drivers approaching Highway 14 from County Road 9 will not be allowed to turn left at the intersection where they do today. Instead, drivers will turn right directly into an exclusive left turn lane and then make a U-turn at the designated median opening. This means that motorists from County Road 9 will only have to be concerned with one direction of traffic on Highway 14 at a time and do not need to wait for a gap in both directions to cross the highway. Drivers will still have the ability to turn left from Highway 14 onto County Road 9 without using the median U-turn.
MnDOT is planning another public meeting in 2023 with information on what to expect from construction and navigating a J-turn.
The project website is talk.dot.state.mn.us/hwy-14-co-rd-9-rci.