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MDOT U.P. projects continued to focus on safety in 2023
November 29, 2023
- Safety is the top concern at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
- MDOT safety initiatives across the Upper Peninsula are part of a larger Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) effort.
- MDOT's Superior Region is working on many fronts to implement a “safe system” approach to our state highways, including a new roundabout, wider shoulders, and Michigan Lefts.
ESCANABA, Mich. - This year, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) worked to increase safety on highways in the Upper Peninsula with projects building roundabouts, wider shoulders, roadway delineators, and Michigan Lefts, among other safety features.
MDOT safety projects are part of a larger Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) effort. Since 2010, MDOT has collaborated statewide with law enforcement officials and first responders to promote this important national highway safety strategy, including posting year-to-date fatality totals on roadside dynamic message signs. These efforts are raising awareness of traffic safety challenges in Michigan.
MDOT's efforts extend far beyond raising awareness. The Superior Region, which encompasses the entire U.P., tackles safety concerns through specific road projects and system-wide improvements each year.
"Safety continues to be the top priority at MDOT as we integrate safety features into the design and planning of upcoming projects," said Jason DeGrand, MDOT region operations engineer. "This year, several efforts helped improve safety around the Upper Peninsula."
MDOT has adopted a new Safe System approach to designing and building roadways. At its core, the strategy recognizes that safety needs to be proactive and that it’s crucial to make systems redundant.
"MDOT is doing its part in the TZD effort by continuing to invest in projects that improve the safety of the roadway network," explained Justin Junttila, MDOT region traffic and safety engineer. "We are focusing on the Safe System approach. While no crashes are desirable, this approach prioritizes reducing crashes that result in death and serious injuries."
This fall, MDOT began the two-year, $6.4 million project to install a roundabout at the US-41/M-28 intersection with Lakeshore Drive in Ishpeming, an intersection with a history of serious crashes. Roundabouts are cited by the Federal Highway Administration as proven safety countermeasures, with their dramatic reduction in conflict points compared to a normal signalized intersection, and a 78 percent reduction in fatal and injury crashes.
In 2023, MDOT built several indirect left turns, or Michigan Lefts, as part of a $5.7 million rebuilding and resurfacing project on US-41 between Marquette and Negaunee. These are designed to mitigate angle and rear-end crashes by eliminating traffic conflict points.
Research has shown that Michigan Lefts increase safety at an intersection by reducing the number and severity of crashes, often by 30-60 percent. They also relieve congestion, improve traffic flow, and provide easier access to businesses. With fewer crashes and congestion, as well as increased capacity, roads with Michigan Lefts function better for all road users.
MDOT replaced bi-directional median crossovers in the area with newly designed crossovers to accommodate even large logging trucks by installing paved areas called truck loons on the outside edge of the roadway.
Paved shoulder widening was a component of several MDOT road projects this year, including on M-183 in the eastern U.P. and M-95 in the central U.P. Wider shoulders help reduce lane departure crashes, the most common type of fatal traffic crash in the U.P. Also, wider paved shoulders provide more room for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel safely on the highway. They also help MDOT maintain these areas more safely and efficiently.
"With narrow paved shoulders, we're constantly adding gravel to deal with the drop-off at the pavement edge caused by erosion," DeGrand said. "The wider shoulders eliminate the drop-off and reduce worker exposure to traffic dangers."
Delineator posts were installed on the east end of M-28, completing a multi-year effort along the two main east-west state routes in the U.P., US-2 and M-28. These reflective posts assist drivers in finding the edge of the roadway in low visibility conditions like fog and snow.
Delineators are another way to help mitigate single-vehicle run-off-the-road crashes. These are the most common type of fatal crash on U.P. roads, accounting for 42.6 percent of all fatal crashes from 2018-2022. Delineators supplement other safety features such as paved shoulders, edge lines, and rumble strips.
Michigan’s TZD efforts mirror those in other parts of the country. While we’re making progress, statistics show we have a long way to go to reach the goal.
In Michigan, as of Nov. 28, unofficial data showed 945 people had died on roadways in 2023, a decrease of 53 compared to the same time in 2022. In addition, 5,219 people were seriously injured, up 36 from the same period a year ago.
Through Nov. 27, unofficial statistics showed 25 people had died on roads in the U.P. this year, with 88 seriously injured. That's three fewer fatalities and 28 fewer serious injuries than at the same time in 2022.
Next year, among other safety initiatives, MDOT plans to complete the Ishpeming roundabout project and incorporate wider paved shoulders into several other projects. All to keep the U.P. moving toward zero deaths.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) began work this fall on the two-year, $6.4 million project to install a roundabout at the US-41/M-28 intersection with Lakeshore Drive in Ishpeming, an intersection with a history of serious crashes. Roundabouts are cited by the Federal Highway Administration as proven safety countermeasures. (MDOT photo)