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More rumble strips coming to Highway 61 in Cook County

Highway 61 construction in 2018. Photo by Rhonda Silence
Highway 61 construction in 2018. Photo by Rhonda Silence

Despite vocal opposition from a few Cook County residents, Minnesota Department of Transportation staff will be installing sinusoidal rumble strips at various locations along Highway 61 starting Monday, Aug. 19.

The sections of highway where sinusoidal rumble strips will be installed this year include from mile posts 46 to 50 south of Silver Bay, mile posts 77 to 78 south of Schroeder, mile posts 100 to 106 south of Grand Marais, and mile posts 117 to 128 and 129 to 133 north of Grand Marais. All of these sinusoidal rumble strips will be installed along the shoulder of the roadway, not on the centerline.

Along with scheduled road construction projects, more sinusoidal rumble strips will be installed along Highway 61 over the next few years.

Installing rumble strips along Minnesota highways has been in practice for nearly two decades. The purpose is to alert tired or distracted drivers when they are drifting across lines, potentially causing a severe or fatal crash. They are also beneficial during winter months when snow, at times, prevents drivers from seeing the edge of the lane, according to MnDOT.

Statewide, studies have proven rumble strips and sinusoidal rumble strips to be highly effective. Since the implementation of rumble strips, and other safety measures, Minnesota has seen a decrease in fatalities from 625 in 2000, to less than 358 in 2017. Serious injury statistics have decreased as well.

This spring and summer there have been concerns raised by a few local residents about adding more rumble strips to Highway 61.  Their reasons for not wanting the rumble strips primarily factor on noise pollution that would impact their quality of life near Lake Superior.

When MnDOT first began installing rumble strips throughout the state, by design, they were noisy inside the car to alert the driver they were too close to the edge or the center line. They were also noisy to someone outside the vehicle, and depending on the lay of the land, the noise traveled. Since then, MnDOT has improved the design of rumble strips and now utilize sinusoidal rumble strips – dubbed mumble strips – in many locations throughout the state. The sinusoidal rumble strips still make noise and vibration to alert the driver, but are much less audible outside the vehicle.