BEMIDJI -- The University of Minnesota is hoping to get Bemidji drivers involved in the future of rural engineering.
The institution in the Twin Cities is conducting a study through the month of September and is inviting Bemidji drivers to share their thoughts about Minnesota roadways, with an emphasis on intersections. According to Nichole Morris, the HumanFIRST Laboratory director at the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, the study's goal is about improving communications.
"The key is to really understand how public outreach can best be done when it comes to novel intersection designs," Morris said. "For this specific study, we're focusing on restricted crossing intersections, also known as RCIs."
Restricted crossing intersections have also been known as reduced conflict intersections. These types of intersections limit a vehicle's ability to make certain types of turns, therefore reducing the number of lanes drivers need to cross.
"As engineering becomes more innovative, and as state and local agencies are trying these novel intersections, we want to best understand how to connect with people about these designs in a meaningful way," Morris said. "When we were at the Minnesota State Fair in 2019, we connected with people all over the state. We learned pretty reliably that a lot of people hadn't heard of this type of design, so they were more hesitant in accepting it. Most individuals, though, once educated on the benefit of the design, had greater buy-in."
However, others Morris' team spoke with wanted more information on the subject with additional input from those who use the intersections more often, especially people who use it for farming purposes or commercial truck drivers.
"That set us into this follow-up study in deciphering who people want to hear from and who do they trust in learning about these designs," Morris said. "In this particular study, because it's so focused on those rural intersections, we're reaching out to other parts of the state that we may not typically hear from."
Participating in the study takes about 20 minutes and the University of Minnesota is looking for responses by Wednesday, Sept. 30. Those interested must have a valid drivers license, drive on Minnesota roadways and have no hearing loss that inhibits everyday conversation. To participate in the study, visit https://umn.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_em30QrWwzOpG28Z.