Image courtesy of MnDOT

SAUK RAPIDS - From safety, to speed, to lost revenue business owners voiced their concerns over a plan to reconfigure a busy intersection on Highway 23 in Benton County.

MnDOT wants to create a "Reduced Conflict Intersection" at County Road 8. Basically what that means is the traffic on the highway wouldn't be impacted, but vehicles on the county road would only be able to go right, they couldn't go left. A u-turn area would be built about 800 feet down the road where cars could turn around, if they wanted to go the other way.

Besser's Bike Barn owner Loren Besser says it will hurt business.

If we're going to get business to grow, we've got to make it inviting.  I don't think this concept is inviting.

Most business owners in that neighborhood would prefer a traffic light, however MnDOT's Tom Dumont says there's not enough traffic on the county road to warrant a light.  Lowering the speed limit and building a roundabout were also suggested.

The cross street volume right now is not enough.  And, I recognize there might be future development, but our study didn't justify any of the requirements that we need.

Meanwhile, 15,000 cars travel on that stretch of Highway 23 every day, making it a dangerous intersection.

Dumont says, out of about 1,500 intersections in a 12 county area, that intersection ranks at about number 40 for most dangerous.

He says they've already installed several variations of this design at intersections around the state, including on Kandiyohi County Road 24 near Willmar.

Photo by WJON.com's Jim Maurice

Benton County Commissioner Jake Bauerly says safety is a concern for him, but so is economic development.

We need to do more research and how these things work in other parts of the state, and how it is going to affect businesses as well as safety.  So it's a complicated issue.

If MnDOT moves ahead with their plan for a Reduced Conflict Intersection, it probably wouldn't happen until the year 2020.  Dumont says he's received $450,000 in federal money for the project.