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Planned intersection change causes stir in Freeborn County

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Bridge and Hawthorne intersection

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (FOX 47) - At Wednesday's open house, Albert Lea residents voiced concerns over a project affecting a major road in town.

"The project plan has been in the works for 30 years," said Susan Miller, Freeborn County engineer.

"We're talking about a decision that could cost people their lives," said resident Quincy Borland.

The planned removal of the traffic light at the intersection of Hawthorne and Bridge has caused some division in Albert Lea.

"It's one of our highest traffic count roads in the entire city," said Miller. "It carries heavy commercial trucks and residential traffic so it's an important corridor for us to plan. "

The traffic light would be replaced by a flashing light controlled pedestrian crossing, with a goal of speeding up traffic. The dispute is over whether that needs to be done.

"A lot of youth in the community use the stoplights to cross to go to either park on each side or go to school," said Borland. "There's a crossing guard but the crossing guard is only there two times a day."

A study by project consultants shows the traffic volume on Hawthorne does not justify the current traffic light, and it actually makes the intersection more dangerous.

"We're traffic will flow much more smoothly and that we will be able to limit as many of those rear end crashes that have happened in the past," said Miller.

Some residents believe the intersection doesn't need any light at all during certain hours.

"It's going to be all backed up," Borland said. "It's going to be horrible. It's already horrible the way it is right now."

Others are concerned about safety as the project moves forward.

"It does take a little more diligence but that's what we have to do as parents to take care of our kids," Miller said. "We wouldn't send them crossing I-35 by themselves. This is a similar situation."

"It doesn't seem like there's anything we can do as people and I don't think that's right," said Borland. "The people of Albert Lea should have a say and it feels like our say has been taken away."

A similar pedestrian crossing has been installed on Front Street at the entrance to Lou Rich Inc. and residents say it is also dangerous.

Alex Tejada

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