Motorists driving through South Vienna must now drive slower through the village.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has lowered the speed limit on U.S. Route 40 to 55 mph, about two months after raising the speed limit from 50 mph to 60 mph.
The reduction in speed came after ODOT District 7 completed a traffic study that confirmed Clark County leaders’ concerns that 60 mph was too fast for that area.
Craig Eley, an ODOT traffic engineer, said the speed study determined the road could accommodate motorists traveling 56 mph.
Eley said the engineering study considered highways development, the physical condition of the highway, the paved shoulder and vehicle travel.
“I think 55 mph is the appropriate speed based on the study,” Eley said.
The speed limit was bumped from 50 mph to 60 mph as part of a statewide change increasing speeds along 194 miles of rural divided highways that went into effect Sept. 29. It included increasing the speed limit to 70 mph along additional non-urban highways not included in the July 1 change.
South Vienna Police Chief Pat Sullivan said reducing the speed limit to 55 mph is not enough.
He wants the speed limit returned to 50 mph.
“If they can make it 55, they can make it 50,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he doesn’t agree with findings of the traffic study and is worried that officials did not consider the children and school buses that travel along the road.
“I just want it to be safe,” Sullivan said.
He said he is pleased ODOT did something, but plans to send letters to legislatures urging them to return the speed limit back to 50 mph.
Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes, who is also a member of the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee, agreed.
He said he plans to contact ODOT District 7 officials and Bob Hackett, R-London, who represents Madison County and parts of Clark and Greene counties, to see if more can be done to improve safety in that area.
Lohnes learned about the reduction in speed in South Vienna from the Springfield News-Sun and has not seen the speed study.
He said the reduction in speed by 5 mph would help some but does not go far enough to protect residents and motorists in the area.
“They didn’t do a speed study to raise it to 60. It was just arbitrary and done through the legislature to raise it to 60,” Lohnes said. “Why can’t we go back to where it was? … I think it should go back to 50. It’s a matter of safety.”
Scott Schmid, director of the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee, sent letters to ODOT and legislators urging state officials to reduce the speed limit in South Vienna at the urging of TCC members.
TCC members were told last month ODOT would likely change the speed limit after the conclusion of the speed study, but Schmid and other members say they were not notified when the change occurred.
“I’m happy to see some sort of action,” Schmid said. “I’m sure the village still wants it at 50. But when it comes to speed, it’s a no-win situation.”
Richard Johnson, who has lived in Brighton along U.S. Route 40 and Houston Pike for 50 years, said he was pleased officials reduced the speed limit in South Vienna.
But he wants officials to lower the speed limit in his community from 60 mph to at least 55. The speed limit had been 50.
He said there have been a number of accidents along the road caused by speeding motorists who have lost control of their vehicles, hit utility poles and crashed through yards or rolled over.
Johnson said he contacted ODOT District 7 officials and complained that the current speed limit is not safe.
“I can’t see any reason in the world why the speed limit should be 60 mph through Brighton,” Johnson said.
He said homes in the community are about 20 to 50 feet from the edge of the road, and residents can hear vehicle speeding through late at night.
“My concern is one of these days they are going to come through our bedroom or our living room,” Johnson said.
Eley said ODOT is currently conducting a speed study in Brighton.
But Schmid said Brighton residents may face a tougher challenge to get the speed limit lowered than those in South Vienna.
“If it’s a rural area with a few houses, I don’t see a chance of getting a speed limit lower than 60,” Schmid said.