Father questions road changes after fatal Highway 12 crashes

A father in Delano, Minnesota recently lost his 18-year-old daughter in a cross-over crash on Highway 12. Now, he’s asking the state, why were the highway’s key safety aspects – the centerline rumble strips – patched over in the fall?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s policy requires that rumble strips be placed in all rural, undivided roadways with a posted speed limit of 55 mph or higher.

“I think there is empirical evidence here that there is an absolute need for these devices,” Thomas Dieterich said.

Dieterich lost his daughter Marleena in March after she crossed over the centerline and collided with a semi truck. Now, the father is trying to understand why MnDOT patched, filled and practically paved over the center strips between County Road 90 west to the Wright County line.

“We needed to establish a new base, some new concrete in there so the rumble strips would have something to connect to and hold on to,” explained Dave Aeikens, Public Affairs Coordinator for MnDOT.

Aeikens said because the asphalt was giving way, they put “a temporary resurfacing on top of it, and it somewhat covered up the rumble strips when we laid that down.”

While MnDOT plans to reinstall the rumble strips sometime between May and June, Dieterich can’t help but wonder if the strips could’ve made a difference not just in Marleena’s crash, but also that of 52-year-old Tamara Freiborg. Freiborg was killed in a similar crash on the same stretch of highway in Independence three weeks after the rumble strips were resurfaced, West Hennepin Public Safety confirmed.

“If you have to repair the road, then you come up with something else to provide that protection,” Dieterich said. “You can tap dance around it all you want, but admit this was a mistake and do something to fix it and do it right now. That is all I’ve been asking for, and why do we have to keep paying in blood to make this happen?”

MnDOT affirms that rumble strips have reduced 44 percent of deadly crossover crashes on rural two-lane roads since 2012. They also say they're working as fast as they can and waiting for the right weather circumstances to reinstall the rumble strips.