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Editorial: Barrier should be installed immediately

You'll remember in 2005 when the makers of Sudafed and other drugs that contained ephedrine were pulled from shelves at our pharmacies.

The products themselves were safe, but they were being abused by people running methamphetamine labs. Our government realized this abuse and encouraged companies making over-the-counter drugs that contained ephedrine to eliminate the ingredient. Many did. Others agreed to have their products moved off the sales floor where they could be dispensed only upon signing a register to limit the buyer from obtaining an inordinate amount of pills.

So let's summarize: The product when used as prescribed is safe. There's a significant possibility for abuse. That abuse leads to tragedy. Changes are made.

It's too bad we can't do the same for our roadways, like Highway 61 just north of Hastings.

Every day, thousands and thousands of vehicles cross over it safely. The road itself is safe. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is right.

But there are times the roadway is abused. There are times people die. And steps need to immediately be taken to recognize this and fix the problem.

MnDOT has obviously realized the roadway isn't perfect. A massive concrete barrier was erected stretching from the top the Highway 61 hill to the base of the hill to prevent southbound traffic from crossing the median and striking northbound traffic.

As you know, the barrier doesn't continue beyond the base of the hill. If it did, we wouldn't be writing about the tragic death of Brian Jacobson this week.

The barrier, any barrier actually, needs to be extended immediately. Not in two years when the new bridge is complete. Now. Give us a simple cable barrier, like those installed across much of Minnesota over the past few years. Anything.

Second, the speed limit in the area needs to be changed. It must be reduced. Engineers may say the speed limit in that stretch of roadway has been studied and has been deemed to be just right.

We disagree.

We aren't going to cite a study to back us up. We are going to use common sense. People die on that stretch of roadway, and lowering the speed there would reduce the possibility of this.

The changes we are asking for are simple ones. They don't cost a lot of money, they don't need a congressional hearing, and they probably don't even need federal dollars.

We need a few speed limit signs and a barrier. At this point, we'd settle for bright orange highway construction barriers if it meant they could be installed this weekend.

We do not want to wait two years for these changes to happen.