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Deadly intersection fix sparks debate

Some Clark County residents say $1.5 million roundabout too costly, others say it will save lives.

Some local residents don’t want a $1.5 million roundabout built in an intersection that ranks among the state’s most hazardous rural intersections, while others believe it’s worth the expense if it saves lives.

Opponents said the project is too costly and could cause more traffic problems at Ohio 235 and Ohio 41, where at least two motorists are seriously injured each year and one fatality occurs every two to three years.

“I would think there would be better intersections with a higher risk factor with less burden to the community where that money could go rather than impeding (thousands) of cars per day,” said Chad Cadwell, 34, who lives two miles north of the intersection. “I’m of the opinion it would be better elsewhere and at a cheaper cost.”

Others like Bob Sigler said they support the plan despite the cost.

“What is a life worth? One person killed out there to me pays the bill. They’ve tried everything. Everything under the sun to make that intersection a better place … To me this is the answer. I hate to hear $1.5 million dollars, but to me a life is worth more than that,” Sigler said.

Sigler and Cadwell were among about 80 residents who attended a public meeting held by the Ohio Department of Transportation earlier this week to discuss plans to construct a first-of-its-kind roundabout it says could finally reduce crashes at the Pike Twp. intersection.

Officials have tried since the 1970s to reduce accidents there. Rumble strips, flashing lights and most recently a traffic signal have been added to the intersection, but nothing has worked.

The new plan is to build the first roundabout in Clark County — and likely the first in the state — where the speed limit is 55 mph on all four sides.

ODOT District 7 Traffic Engineer Craig Eley said motorists will be forced to slow down to 20 to 30 mph to navigate the roundabout and it should result in fewer injury accidents and save lives.

“The roundabout will eliminate angle crashes and high-speed collisions. You’ll be forced to slow down at the intersection,” Eley said.

Construction could begin in summer 2014 if ODOT decides to move forward with the project.

Eley said similar high-speed roundabouts are planned in northern Ohio and other counties that have installed roundabouts in lower speed intersections have experienced crash reductions.

He also cited a 2009 study by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science that showed injury crashes dropped 89 percent and fatal crashes were eliminated at 17 intersections with high-speed approaches of 40 to 65 mph after installing roundabouts.

Carol Tressel, who lives near the intersection, implored transportation officials to take action last year after 49-year-old Tracy Walkup was killed driving through Ohio 235 and Ohio 41.

Tressel said the biggest problem at the intersection is driver error and a roundabout is the best way to get the attention of motorists.

“This turnabout is going to be a good thing. It’s going to prevent driver error. They’ll have no choice but to follow the road. As far as the money goes, we all pay a lot of money in taxes … They got it. It’s set aside for us. Spend it,” Tressel said.

But other residents suggested officials consider adding a combination of flashing lights, rumble strips, red light cameras and additional signage at the intersection before spending millions on a roundabout.

They also said officials should consider the effect slower speeds at the intersection would have have on nearby streets such as Marquart Road, which they said also has a high number of crashes.

“Some of these things should be considered before we spend a million and a half dollars,” said Chas Underwood of New Carlisle.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said a fatal accident at the same intersection every two or three years is rare in Clark County.

“We don’t have recurring fatals. Usually they’re sporadic and they’re spaced out across the county. Anytime you have recurring fatals at the same intersection, it draws your attention,” Schmid said.

A Pike Twp. medic, Chad McKee, told the crowd three or four white crosses are currently at the intersection and the roundabout would be an improved change.

“If that was your mother or father, your brother or sister, your son or your daughter, what’s the value of their life? It’s not just someone else … if it was one of your friends or family,” he said. “It’s not an intersection issue. It’s a driver inattention issue. You can put 40 million signs all up and down 41 and 235, and if they’re not looking at the signs, it doesn’t matter so I don’t see a need to waste money on signs.”

Anyone with comments about this project can send comments by Feb. 28 to Craig Eley or Tricia Bishop at ODOT District 7, 1001 St. Marys Ave., Sidney, OH 45365 or email craig.eley@dot.state.oh.us or tricia.bishop@dot.state.oh.us.

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