MnDOT recently hosted a staff meeting about potential improvements to the busy intersection of Hwy. 212/23/67/Granite Street. That will be a part of a much overdue and much larger project that is planned for Highway 23 between Granite and Cottonwood in 2020 when MnDOT will resurface that stretch of highway with new concrete. That project will close much of the highway for a good part of that construction season. The Highway 23 project is so expensive that MnDOT is using money from two funding years to pay for it so they can continue with other necessary projects in our area. Otherwise, this project would consume nearly all of their available yearly construction budget for our area.

While this is still a while off, getting an early jump on planning for the project is important. Traffic studies show that, on average, over 14,000 vehicles move through that intersection each day. Many, if not most, of them make one turn or another. There are no traffic fatalities recorded at the intersection in 2011 to 2015 study period but there have been 20 crashes, which is higher than expected at an intersection with that volume and mix of traffic. Fifty percent of these were rear end crashes and 85 percent of the crashes were property damage only. Also, 85 percent of those crashes occurred during daylight hours, under typical weather conditions.

The early planning work by MnDOT requires them to look at nearly every kind of design option. They even look at the option of building a roundabout at the intersection. I mentioned that a roundabout would probably not be workable with the all long loads and wide loads that travel through, or turn, at that intersection. The MnDOT staff agreed that there probably is not sufficient room west of the Minnesota River bridge to permit a large enough roundabout to accommodate that traffic, without drastic and very expensive work. It think it’s safe to say that a roundabout option is probably out of the picture.

However there are other ideas including lane re-alignment, additional left turn options for northbound and southbound traffic, median modifications, drainage improvements and other ideas including signal improvements for those turning movements.

I mentioned that there were plans for adding an Emergency Vehicle Preemption (EVP) capability to the existing signals a few years ago and that we’d like to see that finally installed. EVP seems like a necessary safety improvement, given the many ambulance, fire department and law enforcement responses that have to travel through that intersection. Signals with EVP capability can give a green light for traffic traveling in the same direction as an emergency vehicle. That makes traveling through the intersection quicker and safer for those emergency vehicles.

Installing EVP was originally scheduled at this intersection a few years ago when MnDOT had a project to add it to several area intersections including others in Montevideo, Olivia, and Bird Island, as well as the Hwy. 212 /Hwy. 75 intersection south of Madison. Apparently it was found that the existing conduit was not large enough to accommodate the additional wiring required for this upgrade. We were told that the EVP project would have to be put on hold until a larger conduit would be installed, which would not be until the resurfacing project on Highway 23.

At that time the Highway 23 project was planned for 2015, 2016 or 2017. Due to the lack of highway construction funding and rising construction costs, the project has now been backed up to 2020. Hopefully, that schedule will hold up and, hopefully, that EVP signal capability will be installed and make travel through the intersection safer and more expedient for our local emergency responders. Meanwhile we will continue to travel south on a very bumpy Highway 23.

Local artist and YME art teacher Tammy Isfeld was busy painting away on the new mural that when I stopped at the downtown end of the footbridge Saturday morning. She designed the colorful mural to fit onto the bare concrete walls near the curved stairway on the south side of the footbridge. It‘s also a reflection of life along the wonderful riverside setting we enjoy here.

A bit earlier she had some assistance from two women who were touring Meander exhibits in the area. After stopping at the bakery, they wandered over to the footbridge and were surprised to see the mural in progress. They couldn’t resist the invitation and both picked up a paint brush and joined in.

YME students will also get a chance to help with the project in the coming weeks and there will be opportunities for other folks to help with this, too, by helping with painting or helping with the small mosaic areas that will adorn the artwork. Hopefully, the new mural will inspire more public artwork in Granite’s always interesting downtown.

Talking to several of the local and area artists, it sounds like there were plenty of folks here and in the area for the Meander. I heard some of the artists say that Friday was at least 50 percent busier than last year and Saturday was a record turnout. We were also downtown on Friday afternoon and it was buzzing with activity and as an added bonus, several Meander visitors had fun watching the lively Homecoming parade. While we were at the YME Homecoming football game on Friday night, we did hear that there was a good turnout for the Granite Chamber’s Musical Chairs five venue Meander kick-off event.

It’s great to have successful events like the Meander to draw visitors to our part of Minnesota.