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Dave Olson, Published January 27 2013

Most dangerous intersections in F-M aren’t always the busiest

FARGO – Busy doesn’t necessarily translate to dangerous when it comes to intersections.

Crash data for the Fargo-Moorhead area show the busiest intersection – 13th Avenue and South University Drive, which sees about 40,430 vehicles daily – doesn’t crack the top 30 for accident rates, according to figures provided by the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments.

The crossroad with the highest rate of accidents is where 13th Avenue South connects to the southbound on-ramp to Interstate 29, a spot that sees 7,140 vehicles daily.

The crash rate for the intersection is 3.84 accidents per 1 million vehicles, a calculation that takes into account an intersection’s traffic volume and the number of crashes for a given period of time, in this case the years 2009-2011.

Given those factors, an intersection with relatively light traffic may be more dangerous to navigate than a bustling one, said Peggy Harter, senior transportation planner for Metro COG.

“If you have 20 crashes at two intersections and one of them has 20,000 vehicles a day going through it and one of them has 2,000, it (the latter) is more dangerous because you’re having more crashes for the number of vehicles going through it,” Harter said.

She said one thing that reduces the danger at 13th Avenue and University Drive South is the fact a one-way is involved.

“A typical intersection has more conflict points than a one-way,” Harter said. “When you have that one-way in there, you eliminate some of the left turns. It removes some of the conflict points.”

The second-highest crash rate in the Fargo-Moorhead area is at Eighth Street and the westbound on-ramp to Interstate 94 in Moorhead, which handles about 15,350 vehicles daily.

Harter said the interchange is scheduled for a rebuild in 2016 and planners hope to address crash issues as part of the project.

“It’s a very big project, and we’re still working on determining the best way to reconstruct that interchange,” she said. “We’re looking at adding some loop ramps to serve that heavy movement to and from the west.”

She said another area with a relatively high crash rate is Ninth Street East and 12th Avenue North on the border between Fargo and West Fargo.

“There’s kind of just constant truck traffic all day long,” Harter said, adding that because of the speeds involved, crashes at that intersection tend to be more serious.

In the short term, officials plan to improve signage in the area, she said.

Harter said the long-term answer might be a roundabout, similar to a large roundabout built at Eighth Street and 60th Avenue South in Moorhead.

“It (a roundabout) eliminates that right-angle crash at those higher speeds,” Harter said. She stressed that no decision has been made regarding a roundabout at Ninth Street East and 12th Avenue North.

Harter said improvements are also being considered for the following intersections, which rank fairly high on the crash-rate list:

One option being explored is a new interstate ramp. The city is waiting to hear from the state if that is possible.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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