Rumbling Along the North Shore

Posted at: 09/20/2013 5:58 PM
Updated at: 09/20/2013 6:21 PM
By: Travis Dill

The Minnesota Department of Transportation installed a safety measure along Highway 61, but residents near Grand Marais said it's nothing more than a nuisance.

The North Shore is a scenic destination, but Jerry Hiniker said center-line rumble strips are creating an unnatural sound to echo along the shore.

“It's annoying because it's a certain frequency that you can hear and they occur randomly throughout the day and night,” Hiniker said.

He lives east of Grand Marais and said writing a letter in the local paper spurred a resistance to the new rumble strips.

“I wrote a letter just kind of off-hand venting a little bit, and the next thing I knew I was getting calls and responses from people that felt the same way and didn't say so. The next thing we know we've got an email list of over 100 people,” Hiniker said.

He said the center-line strips are easy to brush into with trailers and RVs. Vehicles passing legally must cross them and residents say you can hear the rumble over two miles away.

MnDOT responded to complaints with a letter to area residents. In it the agency said center-line rumble strips can prevent crashes and save lives. MnDOT cited 209 lane-departure crashes along that stretch of highway between 2010 and 2012.

But the statistics didn't satisfy Hiniker.

“I mean it is a two lane highway, there's no question about that, and they have a reputation, but the accident rate, the fatality rate is actually quite small,” Hiniker said.

He and other residents worry that property values and tourist activity will drop because of the noise. In the letter to residents MnDOT said it is experimenting with quieter rumble strips. Still, the residents are working with the Cook County Board to push for a public meeting with MnDOT.

The Cook County Board passed a resolution on Tuesday asking MnDOT to halt any future rumble strip installations until the agency holds a public meeting to address the issue.

MnDot said these center-line rumble strips are being implemented across the state on two-lane highways.