New Traffic Intersections

woman driverNew Intersections in Minnesota

Many states have begun to build two new types of intersections to help with traffic congestion and safety; Roundabouts and Diverging Diamond Interchanges. When you drive across the United States you can experience these new intersections in states like Missouri, Utah, New York, Tennessee and Wyoming to name a few.

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation opened Minnesota’s first diverging diamond intersection in October of 2013 in Pine Island, MN and opened a second one on October 16, 2013 in the Baxter/St. Could area.

Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI’s)

A Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), also known as a Double Crossover Diamond Interchange (DCD), is becoming more common where intersections meet highways.  DDI’s/DCD’s are built above the freeway or highway, and require less land to be built on.  It also reduces the amount of time needed for traffic to get through the intersection by reducing the number of perpendicular intersections at each interchange. Pedestrians also benefit by having less corners to navigate.  The pedestrian has access on each side of the intersection and a main crosswalk access is in the middle of the intersection. Concrete barriers provide protection to the pedestrians from potential harm.  The cost of building a DDI is far less than a conventional loop and ramp intersections.

Roundabouts

Roundabouts are a circular intersection with a central island.  Traffic travels in a counter clockwise motion.  Approaching traffic must yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Roundabouts eliminate intersection conflicts because there is no perpendicular or opposing direction turns to have to deal with like at a normal four-way stop intersection.

European cities have used various types of roundabouts since about the 1900’s.  Cities and townships in Minnesota are beginning to use more roundabouts to control intersections. Roundabouts reduce crashes at busy intersections where accidents occur at a higher rate or where more than two intersections come together. Accidents at roundabout intersections have been known to be decreased by 39 percent for all crashes and decreased by as much as 89 percent for fatal crashes. Roundabouts provide smoother traffic flow. Also, when traffic is not idling at an intersection, vehicle emissions and fuel consumption is reduced by as much as 30%

When approaching a roundabout:

  • Slow down as you approach the roundabout.
  • For multi-lane roundabouts, as with any intersection, get into the appropriate lane as you approach the roundabout.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the roadway.
  • Watch for signs or pavement markings that require or prohibit certain movements.
  • When entering a roundabout, yield to vehicles already in the roundabout. Do not cross into the roundabout until all traffic from the left has cleared.
  • After entering the roundabout, drive in a counter-clockwise direction until you reach your exit.
  • Do not stop, pass or change lanes within a roundabout.
  • If an emergency vehicle approaches, exit the roundabout immediately and then pull over.

Since diverging interchanges have reduced traffic delays by 60 percent, improved safety to pedestrian and bicyclists’ access and lowered construction costs, MN Dot will continue to build DDI’s throughout the state where this type of interchange fits the areas traffic needs best.

Source: Minnesota Drivers Manual

Ice Fishing Safety

Minnesota Ice FishingA very popular winter past time in the upper Midwest is Ice Fishing.   There are many ways of enjoying fishing on a frozen lake in the winter.  You can walk out on the lake, drill a hole in the ice and start fishing with nothing but the blue sky above you.  You can fish in a portable ice house that protects you from inclement weather. Or, once the ice is thick enough, you can put a more substantial ice house out on the lake at the beginning of the season and leave it there until the required removal date at the end of fishing season. Ice house removal dates vary from year to year so check with your state’s DNR for the specific ice house removal deadline.

Before venturing out on frozen ponds, lakes or rivers CHECK the THICKNESS and CONDITION of the ICE! Be aware that snow covered bodies of water may not be safe.  Snow acts as a “blanket” preventing water from freezing completely.  The snow may also be hiding cracks or open water.

When going out on the ice keep some sort of sharp object close at hand that you can use as a spike to jab into the ice and help pull yourself out of the water if you fall in.  It could be as simple as a screw driver, ice chisel or hand spikes purchased from the store.  It is also a good idea to wear a life vest, which may help keep you buoyant if you do fall into the water.  However, DO NOT WEAR the life vest in an enclosed vehicle.

Minimum Clear Ice Thickness for these scenarios:

Walking                          4 Inches

Snowmobile or ATV       5.5 – 6 Inches

Automobile                     8-12 Inches

Pickup/Truck                  12-15 Inches

Transporting Ice Houses

In Minnesota wheeled fish houses have to be licensed as highway vehicles, registered with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and follow all rules of the road during transport of the house on public roads.  They require proper lights and trailer lights.  The width of the wheeled fish house may not exceed 102 inches or 8.5 feet.  If your trailer weighs more than 3,000 pounds it is also required to have brakes.

Fish House Safety

At the beginning and during the fishing season you should check your fish house for safety hazards.  Most fish houses are heated with propane fueled heat sources.  Check your propane tank for leaks at the connections to any gas lights, stoves or heaters you may have it connected to.  Check the hose lines for leaks as well.  Keep your propane tank outside the fish house.

Check to make sure you have adequate ventilation inside the fish house for the type of heater you are using to heat your fish house.  Vents may need to be checked for birds nest or other debris after being stored for the off season.  If the vent is on the roof, make sure you keep it clear of snow!

Equip your ice house with a Carbon Monoxide Detector, as well as a Smoke Detector and a Fire Extinguisher!

Always check with your insurance agent on coverage for your ice house and your fishing gear.

Be Safe and Good Luck Fishing!

*Source: MNDNR

Alternative Heat Sources for Your Home

Wood and Pellet Burning Stove Safety| Space Heater Safety.3 Types of Alternative Heat Sources for Your Home

These past few winters seemed to have been colder than normal, forcing people to look for alternative heat sources for their homes.  Most people are looking for alternative ways to heat the rooms they occupy the most while turning down the thermostat in rooms not used as much such as bedrooms, laundry rooms and basements.

Three types of alternative heat sources are wood burning stoves, pellet burning stoves and portable space heaters.  All are good ways to heat the rooms used most in the home and reducing the monthly heating bill.

Wood Burning Stoves

These stoves are not set into a wall like a fireplace so a person can walk completely around the stove.  It includes a fire chamber, a stove pipe connected to a chimney for venting out the smoke it produces from burning wood.  It uses chopped wood for fuel.

Pellet Stoves

This kind of stove is similar to a wood burning stove except for two things.  It uses wood or corn pellets for fuel and it is vented out from an exhaust vent on the stove out to a vent through the wall.

Portable Space Heater

The most common type of portable space heater is run on electricity.  It usually has a fan to distribute the heat it produces and a control for regulating the temperature of the heat.

Safety Tips for Wood/Pellet Burning Stoves and Portable Space Heaters

  • Never leave stoves or heaters unattended
  • Always have a Fire Extinguisher nearby
  •  Don’t build too big of a fire
  • Make sure your home is equipped with both a Smoke Detector and a Carbon Monoxide Detector
  • Don’t burn trash in wood or pellet burning stoves
  • Always supervise children near stoves or space heaters
  • Keep furniture, fuel sources, books and other items 3 feet from stoves and space heaters
  • Clean out ashes from stoves on a regular basis
  • Make sure the space heater has an automatic shut off if tipped over
  • Keep your pets away from the stove or space heater

Whether you are considering a wood/pellet burning stove or a space heater for your home it is a good idea to do some research to ensure you choose what fits best for you and your family. Once you have made your decision make sure you check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Some insurance companies require additional coverage on wood or pellet burning stoves.

By: Christine Gaffron