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To prevent fatal crashes, city advocates for future roundabout west of Lonsdale
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In January, a fatal car crash at the Hwy. 19/County Road 2 intersection, west of Lonsdale, led the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), Rice County and the city of Lonsdale to consider options for making the intersection safer for drivers.

City Administrator Joel Erickson said a roundabout is actually warranted at the intersection. According to MnDOT guidelines, the intersection must have a 1.0 rating or higher on its scale of measuring the need for a roundabout, and the Hwy. 19/County Road 2 intersection has a 3.0 rating.

When MnDOT comes through Lonsdale to do a mill and overlay in 2023, Erickson said staff needs to work with them to incorporate project plans. Rice County already implemented the short-term improvement recommendation of installing a flashing LED stop sign and advanced warning as an immediate response to the January fatality. The other MnDOT recommendation, rumble strips, were already in place.

“All we can do is advocate and provide input,” Erickson said. “… It’s really going to come down to MnDOT. We will continue to advocate during design meetings or planning sessions and also involve legislation to keep pressuring MnDOT to get their recommended safety improvements implemented.”

According to Erickson, concern over the intersection actually dates back four or five years, when the intersection had no lighting. The city reached out to Rice County, which then installed several overhead street lights. However, the fatal car crash in January sparked more concern.

Rice County Engineer Dennis Luebbe explained that, because the State and Rice County own the road, they would be the principal agencies in addressing the right of ways and upgrades. The Lonsdale City Council would participate in the discussion and be expected to weigh how one option might better suit drivers in the Lonsdale area better than the other.

The county could take the lead on a project to establish a plan to prevent further fatal car crashes, but Luebbe said that would require further studies to find out what types of solutions meet MnDOT guidelines. An intersection control evaluation would help determine the percentage of drivers turning right on the intersection and if that warrants a right-turn lane, or if the same number of drivers come from all four legs of the intersection.

When the fatality occurred back in January, Luebbe recalls looking into the crash history at the intersection and finding a number of incidents of drivers failing to stop at the stop sign. Many accidents have occurred if a driver heading north on Hwy. 19 attempts to pass a driver turning west onto County Road 2.

He explained that Hwy. 19/Country Road 2 doesn’t lie at a 90-degree angle, and skewed highways typically have a higher crash rate. However, understanding the true crash rate would require a deeper investigation into the crash rates at other intersections.

“Regardless of the history of crashes and types, whether it’s a side swipe or a t-bone, some of those are horrific crashes, but the fatality certainly got our attention,” Luebbe said.

Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said he’s responded to a fair amount of crashes at the intersection in recent years.

“I would say that intersection is in the top five for crashes in the past few years,” Dunn said. “It’s unfortunate because many of these crashes are preventable if people are paying attention, if they would look to see if the driver on the cross ramp is stopping or not. The majority fail to yield if they’re pulling out from that stop sign going east or west.”

The transition of vehicles moving from a 60 mile-per-hour zone into a 30-mile-per-hour zone also makes the crashes more serious, he said. Plus, with no stop signs on the north and south sides of the intersection, drivers need to watch out for traffic coming into Lonsdale on County Road 2.

“I think anything the city or MnDOT can do would definitely be a benefit because we saw a decrease in crashes when they put in the flashing lights,” Dunn said.

Lonsdale Crawlers have in-person, online options for 9th annual fight against cancer
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It goes without saying that a number of fundraisers and annual events needed tweaking in 2020, and for the Lonsdale Crawl, director and founder Devin Reyes is taking the bull by the horns.

Instead of offering just one night to “paint the town pink” in the fight against all types of cancer, the Lonsdale Crawl Committee decided to provide a wide variety of opportunities, both in person and online, to last all month long.

“We don’t want to take a year off because all those people who have cancer don’t get the choice to say, ‘We’re going to take the day off from being sick,’” Reyes said.

The Lonsdale Crawl serves a threefold purpose of bringing the community together, promoting local businesses and helping put a stop to cancer. For the first eight years, Lonsdale businesses participated in the crawl with fun activities on a Thursday evening in October, and community members ventured around town to collect stamps on their event passports. At the end of the evening, participants gathered for a silent auction and submitted their completed passports into a raffle drawing. Seven years ago, the Lonsdale Crawl Committee introduced a Saturday morning 5K run and walk against cancer.

Due to health and safety guidelines related to the pandemic, the Lonsdale Crawl Committee agreed to offer the run/walk in both a virtual and in-person format.

Virtual participants sign up for “theMARATHON” to run or walk a total of 26.2 miles over the span of one to 31 days starting Oct. 1 and ending Nov. 1. Registered participants receive two T-shirts and a bag of goodies. Reyes encourages participants to send in photos of their run or walk or tag The Lonsdale Crawl on Facebook and Instagram.

The seventh annual 5K Crawl, Walk, Run Against Cancer happens in person Saturday, Oct. 17. Participants can pre-register up until Oct. 16 and check in between 7:30 and 8:45 a.m. at the corner of Railway Street NW and Main Street North the morning of the 5K. An online option of the 5K lasts throughout the month and welcomes participation worldwide.

New this year, the Lonsdale Crawl includes a Car Cruise Against Cancer from 4 to 5 p.m. Oct. 17 throughout Lonsdale neighborhoods and parks. Registered participants meet at 3 p.m. at the Lonsdale American Legion and may enter their vehicles in one of five categories: Mopar, Ford, GM, motorcycles and trucks. Awards will be announced the following day.

Since the Passport Around Town feature of the Lonsdale Crawl is out of the question during the pandemic, a new addition called the OURtown Business Awards Program will instead serve as a fun method to support local businesses. Community members earn points by logging their interactions at participating Lonsdale and area businesses throughout October.

To do this, customers can either scan their phones on stickers available at the service counters or email/mail their list of businesses and dates by Nov. 2. Participants can also earn points by tagging @LonsdaleCrawl on social media or using the hashtag #tlcTogether. The prize drawings will be held the first week in November.

The Auction of Hope, an online version of the annual auction, will also last for several days, from Oct. 15 through 9 p.m. Nov. 1. Those interested in donating items can contact Reyes by emailing thelonsdalecrawl@gmail.com, calling 612-328-3508 or filling out the form at the thelonsdalecrawl.com/auction-of-hope.

The final update to the Lonsdale Crawl is the OURtown Highlight Reel. Throughout the month, the Lonsdale Crawl Committee will interview businesses, organizations and individuals that sponsor this year’s event. These posts will be viewable on social media, and at the beginning of November, the committee will compile the clips into a highlight reel to showcase what Lonsdale has to offer.

As always, the Lonsdale Crawl proceeds will support a variety of cancer resources. This year’s proceeds go to Priceless 4 Purpose; Children’s Hospital, United Saint Paul; Gillette Children’s Hospital, the Firefly Sisterhood, and Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. The Lonsdale Crawl Care Request Box will again provide confidential support to local cancer warriors.

For the first time this year, the Lonsdale Crawl will offer scholarships to Tri-City United and New Prague students, and some of the funds will go to local youth organizations that promote physical as well as mental and emotional wellness.

With all these changes comes an increased need for volunteers. Reyes said she could use extra help with the online pieces, organization, and small errands.

“We’re all working full-time, and we will absolutely embrace any support and help [volunteers] can bring,” she said.

Even with all the changes for this year, Reyes said she has an even bigger list of goals for the 10th Annual Lonsdale Crawl in 2021. Community members might even see events popping up before October.

“We’re really excited,” Reyes said. “We hope people see we’re wanting to do this to support the people and organizations we always have and provide ways folks can still engage.”

Road construction impacting 3rd/4th Ave. SW area scheduled for May 2021
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Lonsdale took a break from residential road construction in 2020, but a project impacting the Third Avenue SW and Fourth Avenue SW area is expected to begin May 2021.

At its regular meeting Thursday, Sept. 24, the Lonsdale City Council approved a resolution accepting the 2021 street project and utility feasibility report.

The project, initiated by the City Council, involves the reconstruction of nearly 5,000 feet of roadway, 800 feet of alleys and 5,700 feet of water main. According to City Engineer John Powell, who presented the feasibility report, these roads already deteriorated to the point of needing reconstruction, and the aging and deteriorating pipe material has caused a number of water main breaks.

Powell’s estimate of the total project cost is $3.6 million. General obligation bonds and city funds will pay for the sanitary repair, storm sewer repair, water main and street construction. Assessments, levied against the impacted properties and consistent with previous construction projects, will cover surface and drainage improvements. That comes out to $14,000 per single family residential unit ($3,920 for water only) and $245 per front foot of commercial properties. The percentage of assessment to private property is about 26%.

City Administrator Joel Erickson explained that the city would not be able to sell general obligation bonds to pay for the project without property tax assessments, and legally, the city must assess up to a certain amount in order to increase home valuation.

Streets impacted by construction will include:

Third Avenue SW from Central Street West to south of Florida Street SW

Fourth Avenue SW from Railway Street SW to the south cul-de-sac

Alabama Street SW from Fourth Avenue SW to Second Avenue SW

Colorado Street SW from Third Avenue SW to Second Avenue SW

Delaware Street SW from Fourth Avenue SW to Second Avenue SW

The impacted alleyways will be between Central Street West, Second Avenue SW, Alabama Street SW and Third Avenue SW, and between Alabama Street SW, Second Avenue SW, Colorado Street SW and Third Avenue SW.

The project will include both a temporary and complete replacement of the existing water main system on Third Avenue SW, Fourth Avenue SW, Alabama Street SW, Colorado Street SW and Delaware Street SW. In addition, city staff proposed a new water segment on Third Avenue SW between Alabama Street SW and Central Street.

The new storm sewer will extend along Delaware Street SW from Third Avenue SW to Fourth Avenue SW to the Fourth Avenue SW intersection, where there will be catch basin inlets.

To comply with state statute, the City Council must hold a public hearing to address the project and receive community comments. The council agreed to hold that hearing during its Thursday, Oct. 29 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Before that, the council will hold a neighborhood meeting Oct. 8.

The crash vehicle driven by Kaitlyn Hansen, a 16-year-old who was killed after her car was struck by a drunk driver in 2016, was on display at the South Central College in Faribault. The Rice County Safe Roads Coalition said the visual message of the vehicle drives home the message of safe driving from the dangers of drunk driving to the importance of seat belts. (Misty Schwab/southernminn.com)

(Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension)