A traffic light may not be the answer to potentially dangerous M-37 intersection

Posted at 10:22 PM, Nov 23, 2015

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich.-- A driver was sent to the hospital in critical condition after a crash when the driver failed to see an oncoming semi. The accident happened at the intersection of M-37 and Finkbeiner Raod close to 11 a.m. on Monday, and it raises questions about the intersection.

“This has been a real problem here for quite a while,” said Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf. Finkbeiner and M-37 is an intersection that drivers should pass through with real caution, Leaf said.

The Michigan Department of Transportation told FOX 17 News that the intersection is a tricky one because the roads don’t intersect at 90 degree angles, or skewed. That makes the intersection not only awkward, but dangerous at times.

According to a web site called Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, there have been 15 crashes at that intersection in the last five years.

“Certainly there is a local desire to have a signal there, and there’s a desire on MDOT’s part to put a signal in there,” said Nick Schirripa of MDOT, "but we can’t just say we want one and put it in. That’s not how it works."

The first step is to collect data, but MDOT hasn't been able to do so lately because of a project on the Main Street bridge in Middleville, said Shirripa. The detours are directing more traffic onto M-37.

“We could have done a study, but the data would have been inaccurate, because there was a fair amount of detour traffic involved,” said Schirripa. "It didn’t give us an honest picture of what M-37 traffic would look like."

The local project ended Monday afternoon, the day of the crash, so a study could potentially start soon if winter weather permits, said Shirripa. He warns that a traffic signal in theory sounds like a good idea, it might not make the cut.

“We don’t get rid of crashes, we trade one kind of a crash for another,” said Schirripa. "So it changes the dynamic at an intersection, but not always in a good way. We have to make sure that the kinds of traffic we are impacting, and the movements we are impacting, are going to be impacted in the right way."

Schirripa said that no matter what a study tells them, MDOT is aware the public is concerned.

Schirripa said the solution may not be a traffic light, but they have other tools to make it safer.

As for the crash no names have been released, and the police continue to investigate the crash.