My family and I live in the countryside between two small towns: Frazee, and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Most of our lives happen in Detroit Lakes, so we don’t go to Frazee very often. There’s really only one practical route from our house to Detroit Lakes: U.S. Highway 10. As you enter town, you’re greeted by the most ridiculous set of traffic lights ever installed: Kris Street.
So what makes it ridiculous, you ask? First of all, Kris Street isn’t even a street. It’s a railroad crossing, total length, oh, maybe 75 feet. That’s it. Kris “Street” links Highway 10 and Randolph Road, which runs parallel to the highway on the other side of the train tracks.
This crossing was installed a few years back when Highway 10 underwent a major realignment. The engineers who designed it obviously put safety as their number one concern. Sadly, common sense was a casualty of their actions.
A safe railroad crossing sounds great, but to date I’ve spent approximately 1,348 hours and 19 minutes waiting at the Kris Street light. The lights are set up in such a way that whenever a vehicle is given a green light to cross the tracks, all other traffic on both sides of the tracks stops. The engineers obviously didn’t trust people to yield to oncoming traffic, so they make everyone else stop.
I can understand this, considering the fact that a lot of semi trucks use this crossing (it’s the closest access to the town’s industrial park). But travelers on the highway often sit for several minutes at a time, waiting for a red light.
What’s even more maddening than waiting so long is the fact that usually there are no more than one or two vehicles that zoom across while we sit, drumming our fingers on our steering wheels, telling the lights to “Hurry up and change already!”
To make matters worse, there are many times when the lights turn and there are no vehicles whatsoever crossing the tracks. Argh! I suppose they have it set to automatically go off just in case someone’s trying to cross and the sensors don’t pick them up. I suppose motorcyclists like that, but there aren’t many of them out and about in our subzero January temps as I write this.
Finally, whenever a train is approaching, the crossing stays open for several minutes so any really long trucks can get through (they must be really long trucks!). Then, of course, the crossing closes, and the rest of us can get on our way.
But wait, there’s more! Thanks to a quirk in the programming of the lights, they suddenly turn red for highway travelers just as a train gets to the crossing. The light stays red for no more than one second—you read correctly: one second—before again turning green.
Recently, I had the opportunity to completely run that dumb red light. It felt so good. Fight the system! I’ve made up my mind that I’m not stopping for a one second red light in which no crossing traffic will be approaching. My observations tell me I’m not alone.
I know that people where I live tend to be bad drivers (I think I’ll write about that next!), but Kris Street is ridiculous. Please, highway engineers, program some common sense back into that crossing!
I've included some old blogs along with the new. Should you ever find yourself suffering from insomnia, this is the place for you! That's as poetic as I get...