Transportation authorities recommended $3 million in improvements be made to a stretch of Ohio 235 to reduce accidents on one of Clark County’s most hazardous roadways.
Seven fatal crashes have happened on the section of Ohio 235 since 2007, including one last month.
The recommendations by the Ohio Department of Transportation and Clark County officials include: consolidating driveways, constructing cul de sacs along McAdams Drive, installing crosswalks near Hocker and Hartley avenues and adding sidewalks and installing street lights from Dille to Gerlaugh roads.
“Hopefully, we’re taking better advantage of what we have out there to provide a safer (roadway) for everyone,” said Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid.
Bethel Twp. officials recently passed a resolution supporting the changes and are optimistic the improvements will make the road safer for pedestrians and motorists. The road averages 13,800 cars per day.
“I’m not sure this is a complete fix, but any improvement is a step in the right direction,” Bethel Twp. trustee Nancy Brown said. “There are just so many driveways so close together, there’s just so many moving parts and so many accidents because a lot of that development was done before zoning … there are no easy fixes. There just aren’t.”
The crashes are the result of driver error, transportation officials say, but studies show the road also lacks crosswalks, pedestrian signals and signs, and has too many entrances and exits that cause backups and safety problems.
The four pedestrians killed on the road were Jonathan Gibson, Larry Downs, Yuezhuo Zheng and Audrey Williams.
The latest fatality occurred last month when 18-year-old Elizabeth Radcliff was killed on impact when her vehicle was struck by a southbound vehicle as she pulled out of McDonalds.
Schmid said the fatal crashes are a concern for transportation officials.
“It’s sad, but frustrating too. It’s tough because we don’t have all the answers and we don’t know what’s going through their heads when the crash occurs,” Schmid said.
The recommendations for the road come six months after transportation officials held a public meeting at Park Layne Elementary in New Carlisle.
Officials sought feedback from area residents to help select the best improvement option for the road.
Proposed improvements then involved adding a raised median, median breaks, U-turns, roundabouts, traffic signals and limiting left turns to signaled intersections and other areas. But those options costs between $7 million to $12 million.
Schmid said most of the project will be funded through grants.
Bethel Twp. is expected to provide $11,000 toward the project from its roads funds, Brown said.
Bethel Twp. Trustee David Finfrock said he questions whether transportation officials should add two lanes to the west side of the road and eliminate access points along the road.
But he said motorists and pedestrians also have to use caution.
“It’s a tough situation. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s been here for 20 years, and it’s going to be here for another 50 years or however many years,” Finfrock said. “When we make these adjustments, we’re going to have to make it for years down the road.”
Ranchers Roast Beef manager Pat Smiley said authorities need to reduce the 45 mph speed limit, because motorists routinely drive 60 mph down the road.
Smiley, who has worked at the business for 24 years, said he didn’t know if the proposed changes would improve safety, but feared consolidating too many access points could hurt businesses in the area.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where and how they’re going to do this,” Smiley said.
The Springfield News-Sun has followed state and local efforts to improve Ohio 235 for months, covering numerous accidents along the road, interviewing relatives of those killed, attending public forums and monitoring the results of studies identifying problem areas along the road.