Hazardous road once had changes planned

New Clark County list topped by area that state once planned $5M in work.

An intersection topping a new list of Clark County’s most hazardous corridors could have been changed seven years ago, but local officials voted against the plan and $5 million the state offered to pay for it.

First on the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee’s new “High Hazard Location List” is the Ohio 4/U.S. 40/Upper Valley Pike interchange near U.S. 68 in Springfield Twp. The list was compiled using crash data from 2010-2012, with higher weight given to accidents where someone was killed or injured. During that time, the interchange had 63 crashes, 54 percent of which were rear-end collisions, according to the study.

Beatrice Allen has lived near the intersection for 35 years.

“Yeah there’s a lot of wrecks coming off of (U.S. 68) onto Upper Valley. It’s just really bad,” Allen said. “At one time (the county) said they were going to redo it, but they didn’t.”

In 2006, the TCC studied the interchange and proposed removing some of the loop ramps and altering the traffic patterns near the U.S. 68 interchange. It was submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s traffic safety committee, which approved $5 million in funding for the project. However, when the proposal was presented to the TCC board, members voted it down, said Scott Schmid, director of the TCC.

“The reason, if I recall at the time, and it’s one that comes up a lot, is just because we have money, we shouldn’t implement something that’s not going to solve the problem, which is a good point,” Schmid said. “As staff, we felt that it was going to help the intersection out there, and the committee felt otherwise.”

Even with the interchange topping the new list as “hazardous,” Schmid said there’s no money now for major improvements. The interchange is part of ODOT District 7, and it’s possible TCC staff could request funding from the state traffic safety committee again, but without local board approval, it’s unlikely. Instead, the TCC is targeting “piecemeal type” fixes such as improving traffic light timing and adding signs.

“Little fixes here and there, but again, dollars are tight right now, so any big fix is probably out of the question,” Schmid said.

In general, the county sees about 3,000 crashes per year, and those accidents include injuries, fatalities and damage to property, according to the study.

The only rural intersection to make the top 5 is at Ohio 235/Styer Drive in Bethel Twp. Officials recorded 21 crashes there, two of which were fatal. The TCC released a corridor management study of the area, proposing improvements, including adding a raised median. ODOT is working on recommendations now, including reducing the number of driveways near the intersection and upgrading signals, Schmid said.

The purpose of the study, Schmid said, is to identify problems where funding should be focused and to work with ODOT to make fixes. Even if money is not available for new construction, smaller fixes such as lane re-striping and new LED signals or adding backplates to make them more visible can often be added to smaller projects such as resurfacing. This improves safety while reducing costs in the long-run, Schmid said.

Most crashes, the study found, are in areas where there’s a high volume of traffic. For instance, at Limestone and John Streets, the fourth highest ranking hazardous intersection in the county, 67 percent of the crashes were while motorists were turning, the study showed. Often, Schmid said, these accidents are caused by driver inattention.

“There’s nothing inherently dangerous about going through any of these intersections. It’s the way people are driving,” Schmid said. “We don’t do this to keep people from smashing into somebody because they’re not paying attention. We do it to protect those who are driving well out there to protect them from getting hit by someone who isn’t.”

The complete study can be viewed at www.clarktcc.com.

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