County rejects plan to remove rumble strips from roads

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

People have died because of a lack of rumble strips on county roads, Walter Wangen told commissioners Tuesday. He said he didn’t think the possibility of litigation should decide whether the county puts more in.

After he and other county residents said they wanted more strips, the county commissioners voted 3-2 not to approve the Highway Engineer Sue Miller’s recommendation to phase out the strips. They said they will now work on a plan for the use of rumble strips, which Miller estimated, if done right, could cost the county as much as $150,000.

Rumble strips are specially-textured portions of road that create noise when a car passes over them, alerting drivers to an approaching stop.

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Miller said that since there is no state or federal recommendation on the strips, a policy by the county could open it to lawsuit if the policy is found to be inconsistent. She said she knew of two cases, which government bodies won, but still cost them in litigation.

She gave the possible scenario that if one county road has a intersection with strips, and the other doesn’t. &uot;If somebody misses the stop you will be sued for an inconsistent policy,&uot; she said.

County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen, corrected her, saying somebody “could” be sued.

But Miller also said the strips would have little use in the winter and would require a lot of maintenance as ice breaks down the strips.

Commissioner Dan Springborg said litigation is a possibility, no matter what. &uot;As far as getting sued, we’re getting experience with that anyway.&uot;

Dave Mullenach voted for Miller’s recommendation, saying that he trusted her judgement. But more than anything, he said he wanted to get something in place. He said the commission has discussed rumble strips before and wants something nailed down one way or the other.

Miller stressed that she held safety in the highest regard. She recommended flashing lights and larger stop signs.

And while Berhends suggested giving Miller months to form a plan, she said it should be done as quickly possible in order keep action consistent with policy. She also said all county intersections should have them, because the usage of roads changes.

(Contact Tim Sturrock at tim.sturrock or 379-3438.)