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Lower speed limit sought

Clark County groups say increased U.S. 40 speed a safety concern.

Motorists traveling U.S. 40 through the village of South Vienna could soon see a lower speed limit to address safety concerns.

The speed limit on US 40 in eastern Clark County increased last month to 60 mph from 50 mph. The new plan calls for a 55 mph limit through the village.

After receiving complaints from the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee, the Ohio Department of Transportation District 7 is now conducting a speed study along the road and plans to reduce the speed limit to 55 mph, said district transportation engineer Ben Wiltheiss.

“The speed study is not complete yet, but they’re going to make it 55,” Wiltheiss said.

Wiltheiss’ statements came before TCC board members on Friday, weeks after TCC officials sent a letter urging ODOT District 7 officials to conduct a speed study along the nine-mile stretch and return the speed limit to 50 mph.

U.S. 40 and other U.S. routes and state roads saw increased speed limits in October as part of legislation passed by the state earlier this year.

Local leaders believe the roads can accommodate the speeds generally, but worried about transitions in lower speed areas.

The speed limit along U.S. 40 in South Vienna jumped from 50 to 60 mph, prompting South Vienna Police Chief Pat Sullivan to voice concerns before TCC members last month.

Sullivan said prior to the increase, motorists were cited for traveling 60 mph. Now that the speed limit is 60, motorists have received traffic citations for traveling as fast as 75 mph.

When contacted by the Springfield News-Sun about plans to reduce the speed to 55, Sullivan was pleased.

“Anything is better than 60. I’ll take 55, but I would rather it be 50,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan’s plea to change the speed limit is supported by TCC members, including Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes.

He said the 60 mph speed limit is a safety hazard and maintained Friday that the limit should return to 50 mph.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Lowering it to 55 is not worth the effort,” Lohnes said.

Lohnes said Bob Hackett, R-London, has championed local leaders’ efforts to lower the speed limit, and he plans to urge him to push for the speed limit to be returned to 50 mph.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said schools are along the road and school buses transport children to and from school using the road.

“There’s less time to react to someone coming that fast,” Schmid said.

He said it’s rare for a village to have speeds that high through the community.

“We don’t have that in Enon, South Charleston, North Hampton. It’s a rare case for Clark County,” Schmid said.

Mandi Abner, a spokeswoman for ODOT District 7, said, however, that the reduction in speed along U.S. 40 depends on the outcome of the study.

Abner said safety engineers are looking into whether the area would benefit from a lower limit and then would make a decision.

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