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OUR VIEW: A few extra minutes could save a life

It seems these days our lives are awash in orange cones. The orange cones that line Highway 33 from top to bottom, forcing us to merge into one skinny traffic lane, keeping us from turning where we want to turn, and crying out to us to "Do this!" and "Don't do that!" The orange cones that line I-35 while workmen fill cracks,causing us to suddenly damper down our cruise controls from 70 to 55 miles per hour. The orange cones that haunt our dreams, causing us to wait in nightmarish lineups while traffic lights cycle endlessly as the boss awaits us, checking his watch and wondering why we're late for work yet again.

This summer’s "big dig" has begun in earnest — the rebuilding of Highway 33 and its high-traffic intersection with Big Lake Road, the seemingly endless patching and repair of I-35,  and the countless other projects around the county that are in full swing.

Intellectually, we know that all of this fuss and mess will lead to better, safer and more navigable roadways. But when you're stacked up 20 cars deep, waiting for your turn to try to make the green light, it's sometimes tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But there's something more to consider in all of this. In all of our haste and impatience, we can't lose sight of the construction workers who are inside those orange cones, helping to make the project happen — and sometimes risking their lives in order to do so.

On Sunday, a Minnesota Department of Transportation worker placing traffic cones to prepare for the closure of Interstate 35W for flood prevention in Burnsville  was struck by a driver and seriously injured. Transportation officials had been reducing I-35 northbound from three lanes to one lane overnight so crews could set barriers to build a dike to prevent flooding. A 25-year-old man driving a 2002 Hyundai Elantra swerved and struck the MnDOT vehicle on I-35W, according to the State Patrol. The two MnDOT workers, in a 2014 Ford truck, were placing cones in preparation for the overnight closure of northbound I-35W. Both men were injured.

Sadly, this isn't an isolated occurrence. And it seems as though no matter what measures are taken — orange cones, full-size barrels, reduced speed limits, threats of doubled fines in work areas — every year some vulnerable worker seems to get injured or killed by a motorist who is in too much a hurry to slow down or pay attention to orange cone or barricades.

Let's not let that happen in Carlton County. Because no matter how late you're going to be for work (and no matter how mad the boss might get), no matter how a 15-minute shopping trip is likely to morph into a half-hour marathon, or no matter whether the golf game is going to start without you, none of it is worth risking injury or the loss of life to another person.

Wendy Johnson