Rumble strip discussion draws crowd

A crowd of about 50 people packed the Cook County Commissioners’ Room Tuesday morning to hear MNDOT District 1 Engineer respond to their concerns regarding rumble strips along Highway 61 east of Grand Marais.

Objections registered by residents along the highway focused on the loud and annoying sound produced by vehicles crossing the centerline strip they described as a penetrating, ripping noise audible for more than a mile inland. Other complaints included hazards to cyclists and walkers, flying debris from deteriorating strips, spray thrown up at oncoming traffic when rainwater collects in strip depressions, and many more.

Duane Hill, MNDOT District 1 Engineer, assured the group that the rumble strip issue in Cook County and elsewhere in the state has the attention of MNDOT at all levels. He noted that the installation of the strips is in accordance with a statewide policy adopted as part of the “Towards Zero Deaths” highway safety program. He also described an ongoing research effort to develop a rumble strip which would alert a driver without the loud sounds.

Hill detailed a fast track approach to mitigate the sound problem in the short term. Jim Miles, an engineer accompanying Hill at the meeting, will be conducting sound measurements over the next two weeks between Grand Marais and Hovland. Based on the results, modifications will be applied to existing strips with the goal of reducing the sound to a tolerable level. Hill also described a process for concerned residents to be kept informed by email and seeking feedback to be provided to MNDOT on the success of the mitigation effort.

When pressed for a timeframe on the work, Hill made reference to the approaching deer season as a target, but spoke of the difficulties involved in contracting this late in the year and on short notice.