Farm Bureau - Melissa Wheeler

The North Bend Eagle

 

A year later, RCUT winning over locals

by Patrick Murphy
Published in Eagle 10/13/21

Editor’s note: A Restricted Crossing U-Turn is being considered for the highway 30-79 intersection north of North Bend. A similar RCUT was installed near Humphrey last year. The following story is reprinted with permission from the Sept. 22 Humphrey Democrat.

Attitudes have changed.

When the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) proposed something called an RCUT (Restricted Crossing U-Turn) intersection for Highway 81/91, most people thought it would not work.

For more information on what an RCUT is, see the Eagle story from Aug. 18, 2021

After it was built in 2020 and people had a chance to drive through it, opinions have reversed.

The NDOT conducted a survey to learn what drivers thought of the RCUT after having had time to get used to it.

Sarah Soula, NDOT External Affairs Manager, said in e-mails: “We’re happy to report we received considerable positive feedback. Based on the information we received, there is an increase in satisfaction from the community on the functionality of the intersection since the RCUT has been implemented.”

The success of the RCUT and the public’s overall approval of it gives the NDOT another option for similar traffic issues.

“The information we learned from the survey will not only help guide future design,” Soula said, “but allow us to communicate the community of Humphrey’s reaction before and after the RCUT was completed.

“The NDOT has been working closely with the city and school board of North Bend who have requested NDOT evaluate an intersection improvement, similar to the 81/91 intersection. The RCUT is an option being considered. The NDOT is planning to hold a public meeting this fall to discuss the RCUT further with the community.”

In 2020, the NDOT built the RCUT at the intersection after it was identified for study and safety improvements based on reoccurring right-angle crashes.
Following the intersection’s implementation, NDOT was interested in studying how the RCUT has performed through an evaluation of safety, operations and design features in addition to gathering stakeholder input. Based on an analysis of the project scope, a public survey was mailed to area “stakeholders” and was made available on the NDOT website.

The summary of survey responses are as follows:

Respondents were primarily passenger vehicle drivers who were very familiar with the Junction of US-81 and N-91 prior to the RCUT improvements (before November 2020). Respondents use the intersection frequently, with most saying between 2 to 5 times per week to daily during typical rush hour times from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m.

Many respondents were appreciative of the right-hand turn lanes added to and from N-91, as well as the lower speed limits. These two changes seem to be the highlight for most respondents regarding the intersection. Respondents have also seen increased safety with the RCUT now in operation, as compared to the previous stop sign-controlled intersection (78.85 percent – increased/somewhat increased).

Based on received responses, drivers’ reactions/opinions evolved from somewhat hesitant/hesitant (80 percent) prior to construction to being somewhat supportive/supportive (50 percent) today. However, 36.5 percent are still somewhat hesitant/hesitant of the RCUT intersection today.

Improvements recommended in the open-ended comment sections include:

• Concerns regarding merging from U-turns – lane length is too short
• Not enough turning radius for large semitrucks and farming equipment, does not allow adequate turn radius for equipment and trailer
• Signage location and size – comments ranged from needing to move the signs closer to the intersection to replacing with overhead signs instead to too many signs confusing drivers
• Have an extended area with a lower speed limit, patrol area for speeders
• Concerns with low visibility during inclement weather (i.e., snow, fog) There were also strong opinions against the intersection, with five responses mentioning how they oppose and avoid the intersection (“Don’t use this in the state of Nebraska. Do the job right the first time.”) Additional comments were made stating how respondents did not feel like their concerns were heard prior to construction during public meetings. Ten respondents mentioned wanting another option other than the RCUT (an overpass and 4-way stop were most mentioned).

“Following construction,” Soula said, “NDOT was interested in not only understanding how the RCUT has performed through an engineering evaluation, but knowing the public was concerned prior to construction, we felt it was important to get feedback from a user perspective. We reached out to the community via mail and web outlets requesting input.”

Soula wrote that a “Public notification was sent to an NDOT-provided distribution list to encourage broad community participation in the public survey. This notification included a cover letter, printed survey with pre-paid postage, and a link to the web-version of the survey. As part of the distribution process, 170 mailed surveys with prepaid postage were sent to local stakeholders.

Additionally, an e-mailed reminder was sent to 28 stakeholders who provided their information during previous project outreach. Finally, five local stakeholders who were actively involved in the design phase public involvement efforts were specifically contacted by phone to discuss the project.”

NDOT received public survey responses between July 23 and Aug. 24, 2021, through both mailed and online surveys. Overall, there were 53 responses to the Jct. US-81/N-91 Intersection public survey — 39 responses were mailed back to NDOT and 14 responses submitted online.

 

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