Nearly $4 million in improvements will be made along Ohio 235 to reduce crashes and fatalities along a stretch of the road that has been described as high hazardous.
The changes come after multiple injury and fatal crashes on that section since 2007, including four pedestrians killed and one fatal crash in September.
Transportation officials announced Friday that the intersection will receive nearly $2.5 million in federal funds to consolidate driveways, construct cul de sacs along McAdams Drive, install streets lights from Dille to Gerlaugh roads and crosswalks near Hocker and Hartley avenues, among other changes. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.
Authorities said they will have to work with business owners to convince them to combine some of the driveways.
Another $1.3 million in federal funds will go to construct a roundabout along Ohio 235 and Ohio 41, which has been a concern for the Ohio Department of Transportation for more than 30 years. Construction is expected to begin in 2014.
Driver error was to blame for the crashes, transportation officials said, but studies show the road also lacks crosswalks, pedestrian signals and signs, and has too many access points or entrances and exits that cause backups and safety problems.
Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said he hopes the changes make it easier for motorists to navigate the roadway.
“This will hopefully give drivers more time to react to other drivers. And having pedestrian facilities will help immensely if they are used correctly,” Schmid said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation reconstructed the intersection 34 years ago, reducing the size of a hill on the road. It placed rumble strips and dual stop ahead signs on the road in 1980; listed the intersection for the first time in 1988 as one of the most dangerous intersections on the Highway Safety Improvement Program; installed flashing lights on stop signs in the early 1990s and installed a traffic light at the intersection in 2000.
None of the changes worked.
Schmid said the roundabout should reduce the severity of crashes along that stretch where the speed limit is 55 mph.
“The idea is to slow people down entering the intersection,” Schmid said. “With the roundabout, motorists will be going slower and coming in at an angle so they’re less likely to have serious injury accidents.”
The decision to construct a roundabout comes just four months after Carol Trissel, who lives near Ohio 235 and Ohio 41, told transportation officials at a public meeting that residents want improvements immediately.
Trissel said she received a letter from ODOT notifying her about the roundabout plan on Thursday.
“They say they work and I’m sure it will because people will have to slow down to go around the circle,” Trissel said.
Trissel said she’s happy authorities have a plan to improve the intersection, but wished authorities could begin construction sooner because the intersection can be dangerous.
“I’ve learned to very cautions. It can be very scary. The speeds people go, you just have to use caution,” Trissel said.
Bethel Twp. Trustee Nancy Brown said she is pleased with the plans for Ohio 235, which averages 13,800 cars per day.
Bethel Twp. trustees passed a resolution supporting the changes to the Ohio 235 stretch from Dille to Gerlaugh roads. The township is expected to provide $11,000 toward the project from its road funds.
Brown said she would prefer transportation officials install a raised median along the road, but that option and others would have cost between $7 million to $12 million.
Still, she said residents and business owners will be glad to see something done.
“I would think it would help the businesses because it will make it safer for patrons get in and out,” Brown said.
The Springfield News-Sun has followed state and local efforts to improve portions of Ohio 235 for months, covering numerous fatal crashes along the road, attending public forums and monitoring the results of studies done to identify problems along the road.