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Hours after the new Highway 12 barrier is installed, it prevents a collision

Work installing the new safety barrier finished on Friday – and within hours it prevented a collision.
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Work installing the new safety barrier on the deadly Highway 12 finished on Friday. And within hours it prevented a collision.

The median barrier, which was extended between Long Lake and Orono at a cost of $2.3 million, was hit "more than once" by a driver going west near County Road 6 just a few hours after the road reopened, according to Orono police.

The driver was having a medical emergency which caused him to crash.

"In only hours after Hwy. 12 opened, it has proved its worth," the Orono Police Department said on Facebook.

"This definitely could have been another devastating crash albeit something that the driver could not know would happen to him as he drove home," it added.

The driver had surgery in the hospital and is recovering.

The Twin Cities' deadliest stretch

A 38-mile stretch of Highway 12 through the west metro has the highest fatal crash rate in the Twin Cities, Department of Public Safety reported last year .There were 811 crashes reported between 2010 and 2014, 12 of which were fatal.

Last November, safety officials from Hennepin and Wright counties joined together to create the Highway 12 Safety Coalition, and challenged motorists to go 12 months without a fatal crash on the 38-mile long highway.

Officials wanted a comprehensive safety overhaul of the road – but that didn't happen due to the budget impasse at the Minnesota state legislature earlier this year. Federal funding was found however to do some work, namely extending the safety barrier on the crash-prone stretch.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation says the barrier should prevent cross-over crashes, as it very likely did in Friday's incident. There are still hopes for more comprehensive safety improvements on the road in the future.

A further $900,000 used over the summer to install turn lanes at the junctions of Highway 12 and County Road 92. That’s to help separate left turning traffic from through traffic.

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