‘Do something': Grieving father pleads for Highway 12 safety measures

One month since Thomas Dieterich lost his 18-year-old daughter Marleena, on the deadliest stretch of Highway 12, the mourning dad amplifies his call to improve the expressway.

“Every parent will do anything they possibly can do protect their child,” said Dieterich. “And I mean anything. And every day I have that response. And there is no child. I have an urn sitting on a shelf.”

Marleena died after her vehicle crashed head-on with a semi truck on Highway 12 in Independence. West Hennepin Public Safety officials determined Marleena lost control on the icy roads and crossed over the centerline. 

Her father says he believes even temporary safety patches such as cable barriers, rumble strips, digital signs or additional sanding could have prevented her death.

“You can make incremental improvements to keep people out of harm’s way right now,” said Dieterich. “And they’re not even hard. Digital signage. How difficult is it to allocate resources to that?”

At the last Highway 12 Safety Coalition meeting, the Minnesota Department of Transportation told FOX 9, there are no quick fixes. Major improvements aren't planned on what's long been referred to as "The Corridor of Death" until 2021.

“How many people are going to have to pay the price for their inaction?” said Dieterich. “There is no reason we should be waiting.”

As a software engineer, Dieterich himself respects and understands large, complex systems.

“There’s an adage in engineering circles - you do not let perfect become the enemy of good - and MnDOT seems to have forgotten that,” he said.

Which he says is the very reason he’s written letters to and left voicemails with several local and national representatives, who work on transportation issues. 

“When I don’t patch something, somebody can’t view a webpage, when they don’t patch something my daughter died,” said Dieterich.

As an honors student who excelled athletically, academically and in humanity, Dieterich says Marleena would not only want the safety improvements, but she would strive for them.

“Do something!” said Dieterich. “Do not let perfect be the enemy of good and know that there are people dying.”

Dieterich says other potentially life-saving and immediate changes on Hwy 12 can include reducing the speed limit along areas without a concrete median, increasing patrols, and giving public safety the authority to close the highway when conditions are dangerous.