A resolution asking the Ohio Department of Transportation to conduct a study of vehicular traffic along State Route 51 near the intersection of Millbury Road will be on the agenda of the June 16 meeting of the Lake Township trustees.
Melanie Bowen, who chairs the board of trustees, said the resolution will ask ODOT to conduct a survey of traffic speed and possibly the volume near the intersection.
And despite hearing representatives from ODOT Tuesday say the intersection doesn’t meet criteria for installing a traffic signal, the trustees say they’re not giving up on having a traffic light at the corner.
“We’re going to have to put our heads together and decide what we want in the resolution,” Bowen said after the meeting. “We don’t want to waste time on this.”
ODOT will also conduct a review of that section of Route 51 to determine if it should be striped for a no-passing zone, she said.
Although the trustees and residents attending the meeting argued in favor of a traffic signal at the site, ODOT District Director David Dysard and Michael Stormer, an ODOT planning engineer, repeated crash and traffic data set in the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices that shows the intersection doesn’t qualify.
Dysard even contended a traffic signal at the intersection could make it less safe.
“A traffic signal can be unsafe if it’s not warranted,” he said.
Stormer said there were two crashes at the intersection in 2005; one in 2006; none in 2007; one in 2008, and one this year as of May 26. Three of the crashes involved drivers who were cited for being impaired by some substance such as alcohol, he said.
“We’re looking for trends,” he said. “In this case it’s not really a trend.”
The crash history for 2009 he cited included a March 6 injury accident at the intersection caused by a driver heading north on Millbury Road not heeding the stop sign. But there was also a fatal accident May 3 west of the intersection involving three vehicles.
Dysard and Stormer said the stretch of Route 51 could possibly be made safer by limiting access to and from businesses near the intersection and routing more of that traffic to Millbury Road. They said ODOT would be willing to work with the businesses on plans for better managing traffic to and from their locations.
ODOT, however, lacks the authority to compel the businesses to reconfigure their parking lots, Dysard said, and the property owners would have to bear the costs of any changes.
Some residents were skeptical of the accuracy of past ODOT traffic surveys along that stretch of Route 51, saying they didn’t reflect traffic patterns during the busiest hours for local businesses at night and on weekends. Bob Reino, owner of the Mel-O-Crème ice cream shop, said his busiest hours are after 7 p.m. and Lisa Nickel, manager of the Woodbury Market, said the store’s business picks up between 4 and 7 p.m.
Richard Welling, a trustee, said the surveys also don’t reflect the number of near misses among vehicles going through the intersection and the number of motorists who are avoiding the intersection.
One woman said residents living in and around the Eastlawn addition to the west of the intersection were “terrified trying to get on Woodville Road (Route 51).”
Asked by Ron Sims, a trustee, how long it would take for ODOT to begin a new study after the trustees pass the required resolution, Dysard said it would be six to eight weeks.
“It’s been our objective for 12 years to get a traffic signal,” Sims said.
John Castellanos, a captain with the township fire department, said the department’s jurisdiction includes the Ohio Turnpike, State Route 795, and I-280 but some of “the most tragic accidents we’ve had have been in that stretch (of Route 51).”
For Welling, last week’s meeting was somewhat ironic. One of the first projects he worked on as a newly-elected trustee 12 years ago was gathering data to support an ODOT study of the intersection in the hope of a securing a traffic control device.
He received assistance from the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments with compiling the data. The TMACOG employee who provided much of the data was David Dysard.