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County Commission rescinds previous action on road safety

Stark County Commissioners held a special meeting on Monday to further deliberate on road safety concerns at the intersection of 107th Avenue Southwest and 34th Street Southwest.

Rhonda Kieson
Resident Rhonda Kieson speaks to the Stark County Commission on Nov.7.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — The Stark County Commission heard more input from residents about a hotly debated road construction project three miles northeast of Dickinson during a special meeting on Nov. 7. In previous meetings, many who live near the road voiced safety concerns.

At a Nov. 1 meeting commissioners first agreed to lower the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph, a change which will remain in effect. Many residents felt this alone was inadequate, so the commission also came to a consensus on the installation of a 4-way stop at the intersection of 107th Avenue Southwest and 34th Street Southwest.

Rhonda Kieson, who lives near the intersection, told commissioners at the Nov. 7 meeting that the decision left her “flabbergasted.” She believes stop signs would make the intersection less safe. Cheryl Lohmann, who also lives along the road disagreed, arguing stop signs would slow down traffic.

“My husband and I were in favor of the four stop signs because when the big trucks come by and like, zoom on down the hill, you know they're using their jake (compression) brakes and it's a big ruckus,” Lohmann said.

Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser, who attended the meeting via conference call, said stop signs would only prompt more jake braking.

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“I think we need to keep the traffic flowing efficiently, and the stop sign is going to hinder that flow of traffic,” Heiser said.

Commissioner unanimously rescinded the motion to install these stop signs. Northern Plains Engineer Jeremy Wood provided cost estimates for safer road designs. Wood said the current design uses specifications to make it safe at 55 mph. To design it to be safe at 65 mph, it would cost an additional $300,000 to $320,000; while a 75 mph would incur an additional $590,000 to $600,000 in costs.

Both designs would lower the road, which Heiser and Commissioner Dean Franchuk said would cause snow accumulation – another safety concern.

“I'm going to make the recommendation that the road stays the elevation it is,” Heiser said. “I don't think we need to spend any more money on this road.”

Rhonda and Chad Kieson said their biggest concern is the depth of the ditches along the road. The Kiesons pointed out the danger of rolling a vehicle in a deep ditch, and requested the ditches be built up.

“There is no forgiveness on any side of the intersection,” Chad Kieson said. “It's a long ways down.”

Commissioner Neal Messer said the cost of doing that must be considered.

“Safety is critical, I agree,” Messer said. “I think it's impossible to spend our way into absolute safety.”

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Heiser recommended putting “benches” on either side of the road where ditches are deepest. This would reduce the slope of the land close to the road, granting motorists more time for correction and less peril if they inadvertently leave the roadway.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to add the benches to the road when possible, but stipulated their approval must be sought if project exceeds $100,000.

Cheryl Lohmann said county roadwork has caused her driveway to be at an unsafe angle, and asked what could be done to fix it. She also requested more signage alerting motorists of driveways along the road. Heiser said they do plan to flatten the approach to her driveway and install additional signage.

Cheryl Lohmann
Resident Cheryl Lohmann speaks to Stark County Commissioners during a Nov. 7 special meeting.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

Ashley Koffler is a Killdeer, North Dakota native and Dickinson State University graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, and minors in journalism and psychology. Formerly working in Community Affairs for Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, her reporting focuses on the Dickinson city government, community features, business and agriculture — among others.
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