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Lack of uniformity on Minnesota, Marshall roads

A drive to Minneapolis last Thursday was planned last fall in that it was for a concert at Orchestra Hall by the Minnesota Orchestra. That, of course, meant that I was gambling that the roads would be in good shape and, lo and behold, there was no snow, no ice anywhere on the roads and though the sun never came out, there was no precipitation during the trip either going there or coming home.

Because a number of events have caused me to drive up and back to Minneapolis and St. Paul about once a month for the past 40+ years, I believe I have taken every possible alternate route, but most often it is MN 19 to MN 5 to US 212 and the reverse coming home. If the destination was St. Paul, I sometimes opted for going the US 169 route sometimes going farther east to get onto I-35E. There are umpteen ways to get onto US 212, like MN 23 to Granite Falls or US 71 out of Redwood Falls or MN 4 out of Fairfax, etc. I have also gone in on MN 7 and even farther north to US 12. It depends on where in the Twin Cities I am heading and also on how to relieve the boredom of going the same way too often.

MN 19 has had upgrades for several parts of the trip. Our western part from Marshall to Redwood Falls has been the most recent upgrade, but now there are upgrades that were made farther east that have already deteriorated, the worst being a section that runs through Winthrop, the town where I used to stop at Lyle’s Café, but lately I seldom see more than one or at most two cars parked outside that establishment.

Before Marshall put in its first J-intersection at MN 23 and Saratoga, I usually mentioned the J-intersection on US 212 at Cologne when I was instructing a Driver Safety Course for AARP. Now both Marshall and Cologne have several J-intersections. Both areas have cut back on severity of accidents at those intersections though I suspect some folks still believe they are a nuisance.

With that long introduction, I find a lack of uniformity bothersome. One example, but there are other similar examples: Leaving the Minneapolis area on the western outskirts of Chaska on US 212, the roadway narrows from a nice, four-lane, 65 mph section with a median to a two-lane 60 mph section that runs for about a mile or so and then expands again to a four-lane road as you approach Cologne. That means there is a need to merge. This first narrowing has a sign as you get close to the narrow part that says, “Merge Left.” Then after going back to four-lanes and the road again about two miles a little west of Cologne farther on narrows to two-lanes with the sign saying, “Merge Right.” I wish they would make up their minds – why don’t they both merge in the same way?

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Similar lacks of uniformity within the city of Marshall are also bothersome. I often drive on East Fairview toward the center of Marshall. The first anomaly is that when you get to South Bruce there is a sign saying you are on East Fairview, but after that there is no sign as to what street you are on when you get to the next intersection with Darlene – there is a slight curve there and someplace in that area you are no longer on East Fairview, but you are on North 4th Street as REM in that area has a 4th Street address. It is definite at the next intersection (Hudson) as a sign there does say 4th St. Oh, did I mention that its Darlene DRIVE but Hudson AVENUE (both Fairview and 4th are STREETS)?

As you continue in to the center of Marshall, 1000 block of 4th, then 900 block of 4th, then 800, then 700, all of a sudden beginning about 20 feet from the intersection of 4th and Elm, 4th Street narrows by a car width just on the one side. From there until you get to the Redwood River area, it remains narrow, then it widens again. If cars are parked on both sides of the narrow section of 4th it becomes hard to have cars going both directions.

Going back to where Fairview crosses Bruce, if you turn south on Bruce and get to College Drive, and you want to stay on Bruce you need to be in the right lane. Now if you stayed on Fairview that turned into 4th and eventually crossed Main Street, take a turn left off 4th onto Saratoga and you would again get to College Drive, but this time if you wish to stay on Saratoga in the same direction, don’t get in the right lane, you have to go to the center lane which is also a left turn lane in order to continue on Saratoga.

Now let me see, If you start on EAST Fairview and without really turning you end up going on NORTH/SOUTH 4th Street. Had you gone down to College Drive and headed toward the center of Marshall, you would have crossed EAST/WEST Main Street at right angles while being on EAST/WEST College Drive Are you confused yet?

If a stranger to Marshall meets you on EAST Fairview and asks you how to get to WEST Fairview, you might say, “Turn here on Darlene Drive which T-bones with Harriett Drive, turn right to get to N. 6th Street turning left, North 6th Street T-bones with Kossuth Avenues, turn right, that T-bones with N. 7th Street, turn left and the next street on the right is WEST Fairview.”

That jumping around to find the rest of a street has other examples. Charles Avenue which is really a “boulevard-type” street with a median strip just north of Avera Marshall, but its other section separated by a sizable business section is a one block long, non-boulevard type street a ways farther east.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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