Village and ODOT Representatives Meet to Discuss Intersection Issue

by Paula McKibben   Just as Paula Scott had hoped, the grassroots effort to make the intersection of Main and College safer has prompted the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to offer alternative recommendations to the addition of a stoplight at the intersection of College and Main.
   Kirk Slusher, Deputy Director District 1; Matt Rosebrock, Traffic and Safety Engineer; and Rod Maas, Planning Engineer, attended a meeting at the Town Hall to address possible alternatives.
   Some of those in attendance at this Dec. 12 meeting included Paula Scott, who has been campaigning for a solution, Greg Denecker, school superintendent and Jessica Hermiller, librarian. There was Ray Harner from CG Pro Bikes, Wendy Chappell-Dick from Transition Bluffton, and Roger Warren and Ralph Miller from the village council. Public officials, like Mayor Judy Augsburger, village administrator and assistant village administrator, Jamie Mehaffie and Jesse Blackburn, police chief Ryan Burkholder and Tom Mazur, regional planning commission, were there, as well.
   To begin, Rosebrock showed about 20 minutes of highlights of films taken at that intersection from the perspective of the Rodabaugh house on the southwest corner. The camera was up for three and one half days – four mornings and two and one half afternoons. Rosebrock provided the narration.
   Some of the issues that Rosebrock noticed were that single children will run to catch up with a group without stopping to check for traffic, vehicles make turns with pedestrians in the crosswalk when the drivers feel there is room for their car to turn safely, pedestrians hesitate when traffic is on both sides of them, bikes are prone just to drive straight through the intersection without using the crosswalk, and one side of traffic may be stopped while traffic on the other side is moving through the intersection.
   Rosebrock, Maas and Slusher noted that there are no bump outs on the curbs here like there are downtown and that bump outs have been proven to slow traffic down at intersections. Also, according to Rosebrock, “striping” the sides to narrow the roadway between Grove and Main will have a calming effect on traffic and will not eliminate any parking.
   At this point, council member Warren interjected that he has heard many complaints about the bump outs downtown and wants to know why the town would want four more. He also pointed out the anomaly of several stoplights at the Bentley/I-75 interchange where there is very little traffic versus the lack of a stoplight at the College/Main intersection where there is constant traffic.
   Even though the traffic at College and Main is constant, it is not heavy by state standards and was deemed not to warrant a light. The Bentley/I-75 interchange has a light because the bow in the bridge compromises the line of sight.
   Mazur pointed out that not a single stoplight in town had enough traffic to warrant a stoplight, but that the lack of unobstructed vision at Elm and Main and Cherry and Main allowed stoplights to be used at those intersections.
   Slusher reiterated that once you apply for and receive federal and state funds for a project, you must comply with federal and state laws. If the village does not comply with the laws, there will be consequences, apparently related primarily to liability.
   Fred Steiner indicated that the town had done something unique: it had kept the school in the middle of town when other communities were putting theirs on the fringes. As a result of doing this, he said, it seems “we lose.”
   Mazur said we need to do something ourselves instead of a light – crossing guards, flashing beacons – because if we put up an unwarranted signal, the village will be liable.
   Harner thought using “Share the Road” signs might be helpful, however, it was noted that those are usually used in places without sidewalks.
   Scott suggested using temporary digital signs to teach drivers to yield. Mehaffie agreed immediately. Additionally, Wendy Chappell-Dick noted that overhead flashing beacons, as presented by Rosebrock, might alert that part of the brain that reacts to stoplights.
   ODOT has recommended the following for the intersection: four new bump outs because they have been proven to slow traffic; diagonal yellow lines on the sides of Main Street because they tend to narrow the field of vision, causing drivers to slow; eliminating the crosswalk on the southwest corner, between the gas station and Rodabaughs, limiting the crossing area on Main Street; adding flasher beacons with pedestrian signs to alert drivers to the intersection; and providing ongoing education for drivers and pedestrians.
   Ultimately, Slusher says that it is the responsibility of the students to make sure cars are stopped before they enter the intersection.
   As a result of the meeting, the Village now has alternative methods to consider to control traffic and provide for pedestrian safety at the Main and College intersection.