Rumble strips planned for Highway 61
Famous for its beauty and serenity, the North Shore Scenic Drive could soon become infamous for loud, car-shaking vibrations along the side of the road.
During a summer project to resurface roads on Highway 61 from Silver Creek Tunnel to Gooseberry River, the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to gouge new "rumble strips" into the highway. New highway safety guidelines, which MnDOT established in 2007, require the strips to be on the fog line, the continuous white stripe that divides the driving lane from the shoulder.
That means a loud rumble that will jar vehicles that veer too close to the edge of the road, more reliable than hoping a passenger will jab at a sleepy driver on the shoulder.
But neighbors in other areas where rumble strips have been installed have complained that the repetitive noise of vehicles on the strips can carry a quarter of a mile off the road.
"I don't think there is a big enough argument to have them, but there is an argument against them," Commissioner Paul Bergman said following a meeting of the Lake County Board on Tuesday, where the project was discussed.
"I am not overly convinced that rumble strips are the best way to keep the roads safe," he said.
MnDOT seems to think so. The department adopted the strips along the state's two-lane highway system as part of its "Toward Zero Deaths" campaign in hopes that "run-off-the-road" accidents will decrease.
In 2010, residents of St. Louis County fought against the new rumble strips on their roads, with some so upset they filled them in. And St. Louis County was not alone with complaints. Carver and Wright counties west of the Twin Cities area also had complaints about rumble strips in 2008.
The strips would not only be a noisy problem for Lake County residents, but tourists coming up the North Shore as well.
"It makes a difference to me for people who have property along that stretch," Bergman said. "It is going to affect people who live along the road but also people coming to stay at the resorts and hotels along the road. It is going to ruin their experiences."
The agency is aware of the noise issue.
"We are always concerned about the impacts our projects have on citizens. The noise related to rumble strips has been carefully studied," MnDOT spokeswoman Beth Petroske said.
Petroske provided a link to an MnDOT report showing the decibel level of cars driving over the strips when heard inside a dwelling to be lower than the natural sounds of the secluded woods, conversational speech or even a whisper.
"MnDOT's main goal is to provide safe roadways for motorists," she said. "(Rumble strips) are a safety measure that we install to help people stay on the road."
MnDOT says it will begin the Silver Creek Tunnel project in June.