A notorious stretch of road that has claimed the lives of 23 people in the past five years is closed as of Monday morning, as workers install a concrete barrier designed to improve safety for drivers.
A five-mile stretch of Highway 12 will be closed for three weeks between Highway 6 in Orono and Highway 112 in Wayzata as the new median barrier is erected, with traffic diverted onto Highway 112, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
West Hennepin Public Safety has warned west metro drivers that there will be "severe traffic congestion" during construction as commuters are detoured through Long Lake and Orono.
"Motorists should expect delays and plan on extra time when traveling through the area. Residents/businesses in Long Lake and Orono should expect heavier volumes of traffic in their area," it said in an announcement on Facebook.
While it will mean longer commutes for those living to the west of the Twin Cities over the next few weeks, improvements to the road have long been called for.
KARE 11 reports that it will see the extension of a concrete median in place on other parts of the Highway, which has been shown to help cut down on fatal crashes.
Families of crash victims were among those who made pleas to the legislature this past spring, with Susan Youngs of MnDOT telling KARE: "Families of the victims – the crash victims here on the highway – the barrier is very important to them. It was really a goal for them to make this road safer and prevent those crossover crashes."
But while the barrier is a step in the right direction, members of the Highway 12 Safety Coalition had been calling for a much broader suite of safety improvements totaling $15 million.
Unfortunately, as the Star Tribune reported, the ongoing impasse at the state legislature meant the funding was not passed during the most recent session. However, a $2.3 million federal grant made the safety barrier possible as an interim measure.
MnDOT told KARE 11 that it will be "ready to go" should more funding for Highway 12 improvements become available.