Officials look to make Highway 12 safer

- Independence, Minn. residents are upset and tired of grieving over crashes on what’s deemed the most dangerous highway in the state – Highway 12.

“We would like these accidents and these deaths to stop,” West Hennepin Public Safety chief Gary Kroells tells Fox 9.

Over the past five years there have been more than 800 crashes on Highway 12 and 23 deaths. 

Among the young people lost to the perils of the 10 mile stretch is 27-year-old Paige Duncan.

Duncan was driving along the Independence stretch of Highway 12 on February 16 when icy conditions caused her to lose control of her car.

“If her vehicle wouldn’t have crossed over the median, she’d be alive today,” Kroells says.

It's a statement the chief stands by even if Duncan instead crashed into what residents propose be put in place of the rumble strips that divide the highway -- a concrete median.

In August 2015, 25-year-old Chelsea Langhans of Maple Plain was killed when a driver crossed the centerline and struck her head-on.

Just this past weekend, Chelsea’s Orono High School classmate, 26-year-old Alex Grenell also died after a spin-out crash on Highway 12 -- only a mile away from where Chelsea was killed.

There's always factors in every crash a police officer has to figure out. Sometimes the engineering is it.  Sometimes it's factors of the driver or a combination of both,” explains Kroells.

“It’s tough to break it down because cops never write road design down as a factor of the crash. They always put a human factor on the cause.”

Which perhaps explains the complications Highway 12 paves for area law enforcement.

Kroells is among those proposing State lawmakers funnel $15 million into making Highway 12 safer.

“We have some engineering issues, some design issues, some uncontrolled intersections that need to be dealt with and high volumes of traffic.”

Factors Kroells believes play a role in the wrecks.

Kroells expects the proposed $15 million could be put to work along the questionable highway:

  • $3 million would allow for a concrete media from 394 & Wayzata to County Road 6.
  • $2 million would go towards a roundabout intersection at County Road 90. This to slow down traffic traveling 55 mph before it approaches the intersection.
  • $10 million would allow for a complete intersection realignment and land acquisition at County Road 92 North and South.

Big money for what Kroells considers a priceless goal.

“This isn’t a wish list, this is a need list," Kroells said. "This is to save lives.”

A state finance committee is reviewing the proposal for a safer Highway 12.

A safety coalition meeting is set for Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. that will take place at Delano City Hall.

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