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US 12 sees more enforcement, will get centerline rumble strip

PIERRE--The state Department of Transportation will open bids in June for cutting a rumble strip down the centerline of U.S. 12 between Ipswich and Aberdeen, with the work scheduled for completion yet this summer, a DOT official said Thursday.

PIERRE-The state Department of Transportation will open bids in June for cutting a rumble strip down the centerline of U.S. 12 between Ipswich and Aberdeen, with the work scheduled for completion yet this summer, a DOT official said Thursday.

The 20-mile stretch of two-lane highway, from the four-lane west of Aberdeen to Ipswich, has seen a higher-than-normal number of crashes by vehicles crossing the centerline, according to Mike Behm. He is DOT's director of planning and engineering.

He told the state Transportation Commission there have been 465 documented crashes from 2004 through 2015 and 23 involved centerline crossing.

Six of the crashes resulted in fatalities and six produced debilitating injuries.

A former Ipswich resident, Dawna Leitzke, of Pierre, presented 140 letters from people in the area who are concerned about safety on U.S. 12.

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"I don't feel comfortable on that road any more," she said.

Leitzke said she often uses U.S. 12 when she returns to Ipswich to see family and friends and when she travels to Aberdeen for commercial airline flights.

Depending on the time of day and the season, many vehicles travel on that road, including heavy commuter traffic and large trucks hauling commodities to grain elevators and the Mina ethanol plant, according to Leitzke.

She suggested building a four-lane highway the full distance between Aberdeen and Ipswich. "I know it's probably a very big expense to do it," she said.

Behm said the current efforts are focused on improving driver awareness and increasing the presence of law enforcement. Special message boards regarding weather conditions also are in discussion.

The state commission approved the rumble-strip project last month at an estimated cost of $204,000.

Also planned is a corridor study. Its goal is a detailed traffic analysis. The data would be analyzed and presented at a public meeting later this summer or fall, Behm said.

He said there are other segments of two-lane highway in South Dakota with higher average daily traffic counts and higher numbers of fatal or serious-injury accidents per 1 million miles of travel.

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The centerline strip requires milling a thin amount in a specific design from the asphalt. Minnesota has used the design, Behm said, and found it is quieter for property owners along the roadway while drivers are still alerted when their vehicles cross.

He said nothing would be laid into the strip and passing vehicles would blow out most of the water that might collect.

For now, the emphasis is on driver behavior rather than assuming the highway design needs to be changed, Behm explained.

He said the state Department of Public Safety increased enforcement along another segment of highway and saw a one-fourth decline in fatal and serious-injury crashes during the past three years.

That approach is underway now on the 20 miles of U.S. 12.

"The enforcement effort is a large component," Behm said.

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