OWATONNA — After four accidents in the last year at a single intersection, residents have requested that the City of Owatonna take action to slow people down.
During the regular Owatonna City Council meeting on Tuesday, council members unanimously agreed to install two-way stop signs at 16th Street SE and Truman Avenue. Public Works Director and City Engineer Kyle Skov explained that the intersection currently has yield signs on 16th with through traffic on Truman.
“We received a citizen’s concern over this intersection,” Skov said. “I think they would prefer a four-way stop, but that is not warranted in this location.”
Skov further stated that the four accidents over a 12-month period meets one of the standards for a two-way stop control to be implemented, as was discovered through a stop control evaluation. Further a review of the crashes showed a commonality where the vehicle traveling on 16th failed to yield and struck, or was struck, by the vehicle on Truman. In one accident, the driver admitted to not seeing the yield sign, according to the report. One of the accidents was deemed weather-related as the driver on 16th stated that they tried to yield but that the icy road conditions made them unable to stop prior to entering the intersection. All crashes were right-angle collisions.
The criteria regarding crashes states that there need to be three or more crashes that are susceptible to correction by the installation of the stop signs within a 12-month period or a minimum of five crashes within two years. Surprisingly, no accidents were reported at that intersection in the 12-month period prior to the last year that the evaluation was conducted.
“The other option would be not to do anything and remove the yield signs,” Skov added. “I think that would be a little bit drastic of a change but they have found that uncontrolled intersections can be safer because no one is expecting anyone to stop.”
The other criteria for installations of stop signs include a vehicular traffic volume on the through street exceeding 6,000 vehicles per day and a restricted view that requires motorists to stop in order to adequately observe conflicting traffic on the through street. Neither of these criteria were met, according to Skov’s report to the council.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation took a traffic count for Truman in 2019 and found the average daily traffic to be 1,850 vehicles. Traffic counts were performed by the city for 16th and found that the average daily traffic was 660 motorists from the west and 260 from the east. Peak hour at the intersection was found to be 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.
An additional observation in the evaluation stated that some “mature shade trees” on Truman — specifically on the block north of the intersection — create alternating areas of sun and shade that could cause some drivers difficulties seeing vehicles or judging the speed. Another tree located on the southwest corner of the intersection was determined to possibly create visual discomfort and as a result, Skov stated that pruning that tree should improve visibility and increase the comfort level of eastbound traffic on 16th looking southward. The stopping sight distance requirements, however, are still met as is, but the lower branches shorten the viewing distance southbound for drivers in taller vehicles.
The cost of the signs is expected to be less than $300 and will be paid from the street department operating budget.