A local roadway has been flagged for a crash reduction project focusing on public education and traffic enforcement.
The Toward Zero Deaths Stearns & Benton Coalition has begun its “Project 15: This is You” campaign, which focuses on Minnesota Highway 15, from the southern border of Stearns County south of Kimball north to the Highway 15 and U.S. Highway 10 connection. The coalition includes representatives from local and state agencies as well as other public, private and community partners.
“Highway 15 has been reported many times on its lack of safety,” East Central Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths Regional Coordinator Tom Nixon said Friday. “… I would say there’s a lot of crash history.”
According to Nixon, from 2016 to 2019, this stretch of Highway 15 saw more than 750 crashes that injured close to 200 people and killed four. Traffic crashes is the leading cause of death for individuals between 5 and 34 years old in Minnesota.
Minnesota Toward Zero Death uses its four Es — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical and trauma services — to improve roadways with the intention of reducing accidents and eliminating fatalities.
“Even though we want people to behave on every roadway, this roadway is our focus this year,” Nixon said.
A similar project was enacted on Minnesota Highway 23 in 2017.
Related:Highway 23 crash reduction project lowers injury crashes by 55 percent
Almost a dozen signs have been put up along Highway 15 to notify drivers of the project.
Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck said law enforcement will increase patrols along the corridor, keeping their eyes out for speeding, aggressive driving and more — behaviors tagged as contributors to the serious injury and fatal crashes Project 15 aims to reduce.
Stearns County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Kellan Hemmesch said in a press release that aggressive driving is a common behavior on Highway 15, particularly as the road moving south shrinks from four lanes past Interstate 94.
Stearns County Sheriff’s Office did not return a voicemail message request for interview.
Heck said he is not sure if a specific target has been identified for this project, but according to Nixon, past projects have shown between a 50% and 80% drop in serious injury and property damage crashes.
Nixon also said another measure of success for the project is community engagement — whether people are familiar with and paying attention to the project.
Minnesota Department of Transportation Assistant District Traffic Engineer Zach Whitley said there are no plans for engineering changes to the roadway. The project is also separate from a corridor study of Highway 15 analyzing traffic efficiency being conducted by MnDOT and St. Cloud Area Planning Organization.
St. Cloud APO Senior Transportation Planner Vicki Johnson said the project will last for a year. She said the coalition wants to keep traffic safety on everyone’s minds. Everyone can do their part by driving safely.
“One death on Minnesota roadways is a death too many,” Johnson said.
The traffic using this stretch of Highway 15 is a lot of local people, Heck said. They’re the ones the project is named after.
“This is people in our area that are driving on this roadway that we’re hoping to protect and give them a safer corridor to drive in,” he said.
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