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Why does the freeway end near Pine Island?

A freeway is "a divided major roadway with full control of access and with no crossings at grade."

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A road sign near Pine Island could be confusing to some drivers. Answer Man / Post Bulletin

There's a sign on the highway near Pine Island that says "Freeway ends 1 mile." We understand the various roadway classifications, but to the uninitiated, this sign suggests an impending cliff, or brick wall or something. Why does there need to be a sign? -- Curius Driver

Our good friend at the highway department, MnDOT Mike (that's Mike Dougherty, formerly of the PB), noted that indeed the sign alerts drivers of a change in the road. A freeway is "a divided major roadway with full control of access and with no crossings at grade."

"If the freeway is ‘ending’ that means that the roadway ahead will have more access points (i.e., driveways, intersections, etc.) and they will be ‘at-grade’ meaning on the same level as you and you would need to pay attention as vehicles can cross in front of you," Mike wrote.

There's more: "If you notice that sign ‘Freeway Ends in One Mile’ is a black-on-yellow sign -- meaning it’s a warning sign (as opposed to black-on-white which is a 'regulatory sign.'" That means the sign is to call attention to road conditions that might warrant slowing down or at least just being more alert.

"So, in essence," Mike wrote, "the purpose of that sign is to warn motorists that while the roadway may seem to be the same (maintain the same two-lanes in each direction and the same speed (65mph), the conditions will be drastically different in that you could potentially have vehicles traveling a much slower speeds crossing in front of you – increasing the risk of a crash, especially if you are not paying attention."

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"But if you didn't know the definition of 'freeway,' it would not be that easy to understand," Mike wrote. The traffic operations engineer for our area of the state noted that it's possible the sign could be replaced with one that's worded differently.

And if you see a boulder in the road with a freeway scene painted on it, don't drive into it, unless you're a roadrunner , or your car goes " meep, meep ."

Send questions for the Answer Man to answerman@postbulletin.com .

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