New crisis plan puts MnDOT, law enforcement on the same page 09 Apr 18


When a crash just south of Hwy. 19 shut down Interstate-35 in February, local law enforcement quickly blocked off adjacent roadways and redirected traffic.
By planning how to reroute traffic in situations like that one, which close major arteries, emergency responders can do their jobs without backing up traffic.
A plan presented to the Rice County Board of Commissioners Tuesday will do just that for a stretch of the interstate from Worth County, Iowa to Scott County. Steele County’s board had already been briefed on the plan, Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Dave Schweyen told the board.
In the next few weeks, each county will be asked to sign an agreement ensuring each party understands their role and responsibilities, said Schweyen. MnDOT has already purchased signs that will label the designated routes, but needs county approval to hire a contractor to install them.
MnDOT is covering the cost of the signs and the installation.
The signs, which will label the roads as an alternate route for I-35, will be placed alongside existing road signs. That, Schweyen said, will help area residents become familiar with the identified routes and allow drivers using them during an actual emergency to make their way back to the interstate.
“It’s more efficient and lets people keep going on their way,” he said.
From Elko to Exit 59, which intersects with Hwy. 21 in Faribault, County Road 46 is the alternate route. Heading south, the designated route follows Hwy. 21 into Faribault, then heads west on Hwy, 60. It turns south again at County Road 17, then east on Steele County Road 23 until it reaches the Medford I-35 exit.

Local and state officials have set an alternate route motorists can take if an emergency shuts down Interstate-35. (Image courtesy of Minnesota Department of Transportation)
County engineers from each of the affected counties have been involved in discussions with MnDOT and have signed off on the plan.
Rice County Engineer Dennis Luebbe, who was at the meeting, told the board he was in full support.
Emergency responders, including the Minnesota State Patrol, will get copies of the plan. The detailed plan, which includes contact information, and locations of two- and four-way stops along the alternate route, will be shared with all pertinent agencies.
Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said his office will upload the information to the deputies’ laptops so the information is readily available and easy to update. And while emergency closures aren’t a regular occurrence, he said the county sees at least one such closure per year.
Dunn said the location of two-way stops is particularly useful. That allows law enforcement to quickly see whether an officer is needed to direct traffic at the site to limit backups.
Collaboration has been key to the project, said Schweyen, who expects the signs will be posted in June.
“It’s a partnership,” said Dunn. “The more in tune we are, the better the coordination.”