Next month, when driving north on Highway 29 toward Carlos, motorists may see something new and different at the crossing known as "Carlos Corners."
The intersection, which connects Highway 29 with County Road 42 to the west and County Road 13 to the east, will soon be a four-way stop. Instead of only the traffic on County Roads 13 and 42 stopping, motorists on Highway 29 - traveling north or south - will have to stop as well.
The stop signs, which have been ordered, should be in place sometime in late February or early March.
Over the years, there have been numerous crashes at or near the intersection, five of which were fatal. (See related story.) And over the years, there have been efforts to make this stretch of road safer for motorists.
Now, with the support of the Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition and concerned citizens in and around the Carlos area, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is taking steps to help make this intersection safer by installing the four-way stop.
"Getting the all-way stop approved didn't occur overnight," said Crystal Hoepner, Safe Communities Coalition coordinator.
She explained that after the latest fatality, a meeting was held to discuss the need for safety improvements to Carlos Corners. The fatality, which took the life of 18-year-old Jamie Sear from Milbank, South Dakota, happened on Halloween of last year.
Attending the meeting were members of the coalition, as well as community leaders, law enforcement agencies, emergency personnel, highway engineers, businesspeople, MnDOT and family and friends of victims who have died at or near the Carlos Corners intersection.
A recommendation was made to MnDOT on behalf of the community asking for the four-way stop, said Hoepner.
Tom Swenson, District 4 traffic engineer for MnDOT, attended the meeting and was supportive of the four-way stop being implemented, she added.
The determining factor, according to Hoepner, was if there were enough crashes at the intersection to warrant a four-way stop.
On January 15, Swenson was able to report that the intersection met the requirements and that the four-way stop was approved.
"Our coalition was excited that we were successful in bringing the key partners together to make this happen for the community's safety. This was a true community effort," said Hoepner.
Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said that what is planned for the intersection should help, but that it may take awhile for motorists to get used to it.
"People will have to pay attention and be more cautious," said Wolbersen. "Those who are used to stopping at that intersection can't assume that those traveling on Highway 29 are going to stop. They have to be paying attention."
He added that that particular area has become busier over the years and that hopefully, the addition of the stop signs on Highway 29 will get people to slow down prior to getting to the Carlos Corners intersection.
"We hope to see a lot less serious accidents there," said Wolbersen. "Most drivers are cautious and responsible and the signs should make a difference."
The new stop signs have been ordered, along with two "stop ahead" signs, which will be installed in each direction of Highway 29.
In addition, overhead lighting will be added this fall to allow for improved visibility of the intersection at night, according to Hoepner.
The style of stop signs and stop ahead signs are unique to Douglas County and to MnDOT's District 4 region.
Instead of the standard stop and stop ahead signs, solar-powered LED blinker signs will be used. LED lights will outline the shape of the sign and were designed to heighten driver awareness of the signs and increase visibility at high incident intersections.