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Authorities respond to a car crash Sunday evening at the intersection of Highway 10 and Highway 9 near Buffalo River Race Park in Minnesota. (Carrie Snyder / The Forum)

Fatal Glyndon crash crossing slated for traffic signals

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to install traffic signals next summer at a Clay County intersection where two people were killed in a two-vehicle crash Sunday.

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Officials studied the crossing of U.S. Highway 9 and State Highway 10 after a double-fatality accident in May 2007 - the only other fatal crash in 30 years at the crossing - and decided that traffic counts warranted the signals, said Tom Swenson, traffic engineer for MnDOT District 4.

"Obviously, for the people involved, it's tragic," he said of Sunday's crash. "For people in the community, nobody likes to see something like that, including us. We have a good project coming next year, but it wasn't there yesterday."

Sunday's crash killed 64-year-old Robert Schroeder of Pelican Rapids, Minn., and 76-year-old John Fuhrken of Hawley, Minn., and injured Schroeder's wife, Linda, 63.

Robert Schroeder was driving a 2004 Toyota Corolla south on Highway 9 when he failed to yield for a 2007 Dodge Ram pickup westbound on Highway 10, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

In a similar accident in May 2007, two Mounds View, Minn., residents - Ariane Wheeler, 28, and 6-year-old Katiana Wheeler - were killed when their car was broadsided by a pickup.

The crossing near Buffalo River Race Park has averaged about three crashes per year since 1980, including seven serious injury crashes and the two fatal accidents, Swenson said.

"We don't have a lot of crashes out there," he said. "It's when you do have them, the speed limit is 65 (mph) and it can be a tragic result."

Crash statistics alone don't warrant traffic signals, but they can be used to lower the traffic count threshold in determining where signals are needed, which was the case with this intersection, he said.

Highway 10 carries 17,000 to 18,000 vehicles per day through the intersection, while Highway 9 has a traffic volume of about 2,000 vehicles per day north of Highway 10 and 1,200 vehicles per day south of Highway 10, Swenson said.

"That's still a lot of decisions getting made every day out there," he said. "That's on an average day, let alone what you might have had yesterday."

Fridays and Sundays are peak times for traffic moving back and forth from Fargo-Moorhead to Minnesota's lakes, State Patrol Capt. Bruce Hentges said.

"Highway 10's a fairly safe highway," he said. "There's a lot of traffic volume on it, and it's been increasing through the years."

The intersection is now controlled by stop signs and flashing red overhead lights for Highway 9 traffic and by a flashing overhead amber light for Highway 10 traffic.

The decision to install signals was made about a year and a half ago, Swenson said. The construction timeline is considered a quick turnaround for a DOT project, he said.

"Typically, there's probably other locations that are getting a signal, too, and you'd have to practically take someone and say 'Hey, we're going to push your project for a couple years so we can put this one in,' " he said.

As part of the project, warning flashers will be installed on Highway 10 to let drivers know when the signals are about to switch from green to red. The signals will operate on a vehicle detection system - as opposed to timed lights - giving priority to Highway 10 traffic, Swenson said.

The signals, estimated to cost $400,000 to $500,000, are part of a project that will involve repaving Highway 9 from Highway 10 north to the Clay County line, he said.

The project will be advertised for bids in October.

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