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MnDOT crews worked at the intersection of Highway 29 North and County Roads 42 and 13 - Carlos Corners - Wednesday afternoon in preparation for a new four-way stop that was installed Thursday. (Arlan Anderson/Echo Press)

Stop signs go in at Carlos Corners

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CARLOS - Motorists should notice something different - something red and flashing - while driving on Highway 29 North.

The intersection known as "Carlos Corners" is now a four-way stop. It is the crossroads that connects Highway 29 with County Road 42 to the west and County Road 13 to the east.

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With the new four-way stop, all motorists, not only those coming from the east and west, but those traveling north and south, will have to take just a few extra seconds and stop.

Over the years, there have been numerous crashes at or near the intersection, five of which were fatal. And over the years, there have been efforts to make this stretch of road safer for motorists.

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) took steps to make the 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.

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.

The new stop signs were installed Thursday, along with two "stop ahead" signs. 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.

Controversy

After a story on the stop signs was added to the Echo Press Web site, online posters debated the issue.

Here are what some posters had to say:

"The deaths cannot be blamed on the intersection, the signs do say STOP. I do feel sorry for the families that have lost loved ones around this intersection." - Bonita L.

"It's about time. It's too bad so many lives had to be lost to get them [stop signs] installed." - Becky A.

"Flashing lights, four-way stops, larger stop signs...I'm sure all are great substitutes for careful and responsible driving." - Honest I.

"Not all the accidents happened at the intersection...but it's so much easier to blame the intersection than the ones who pulled out into traffic. From what I've read, most were driver error. How will two more stop signs keep driver error from happening again?" - Watchers O.

"Driver error seems to be the causing factor here. I don't understand how adding a four-way can stop driver error, much less curb driver error." Patricia E.

"This is going to cause more problems than it solves. It will cause a major traffic back up and cause more accidents. If anything, stop lights would be a better choice." - Steve W.

"If people would stop breaking the law, like running the stop signs, passing on the shoulder or in the middle of the four way intersection...People are in too much of a hurry." - Doris G.

"Finally! What did it take? How many people died because no one took the initiative to do this years ago?" Anonymous P.

"This is great news. Too many people have been injured or killed there. Yes, it will take time to get used to, but we got used to the stop signs on County Road 44 and Nokomis." - Jana F.

"You folks need to think this through. More stop signs aren't always a good thing." William T.

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