For years, the stretch of CSAH 39 between Hart Boulevard in Monticello and Odean Avenue NE in Otsego had one of the higher incident rates of rear-end crashes in Wright County. Given the large number of driveways along the road, those looking to access or exit CSAH 39 led to many rear-end crashes over the years – approximately three times the state average for similar roads.
That changed in 2019 when the road was resurfaced and repurposed to create a buffer lane in the middle that created a continuous left turn lane. The ability to enter the dedicated turn lane to exit CSAH 39 eliminated many of the crashes that made the road a high priority in the Wright County Road Safety Plan.
However, there is a new concern. People are using the middle buffer lane to pass slower moving traffic. To increase awareness and educate the public that the center turn lane is not intended for passing other traffic, the Wright County Sheriff’s Office will be doing additional enforcement the week of May 31-June 4.
Wright County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins said that concerns have been raised recently about passing on the road, despite signage pavement markings that explains to motorists that the buffer lane is for turning only.
“There has been a desire by the Safe Communities of Wright County Board to have a public outreach campaign to emphasize no passing in the center lane,” Hawkins said. “There has been a concern about passing traffic and using the middle turn lane to pass slower moving vehicles in the travel lane. If there is a vehicle making frequent stops on the shoulder like a mail truck or a garbage truck, it’s OK to pass them. But if the intention is for someone driving 60 miles per hour to use the center turn lane to pass somebody driving 50 miles per hour, that’s illegal.”
“Reports from citizens that people were using the center turn lane as a passing lane led to good discussion and decision on ways to mitigate the problem at our last Safe Communities of Wright County meeting,” Safe Communities Board Chair Christine Husom said. “The mission of Safe Communities ‘is to reduce traffic crashes in the Wright County area in order to minimize injuries and fatalities.’ It is our hope the message boards and increased enforcement will educate people and stop this dangerous practice.”
Message board signs have been deployed along CSAH 39 in advance of the enforcement campaign with the hope that by making more drivers aware that passing isn’t allowed in the center lane to maintain the safety improvements made in 2019.