Monroe Township Fire Chief Dudley Wright is concerned that a major reconfiguration of traffic lanes and traffic signals at Johnstown's primary intersection will worsen a traffic congestion problem in front of the fire station on Oregon Road.

Monroe Township Fire Chief Dudley Wright is concerned that a major reconfiguration of traffic lanes and traffic signals at Johnstown's primary intersection will worsen a traffic congestion problem in front of the fire station on Oregon Road.

Village officials and engineers at the Ohio Department of Transportation disagree, saying computer models show that traffic should be alleviated after work has been completed at Main and Coshocton streets.

The proof will be in the pudding, Wright says.

"I don't agree with that (ODOT's position)," Wright said. "I think people are in the habit, and if you are coming out of the slanted parking lot (adjacent to the old township hall), you don't really have a choice. You're going to turn onto Oregon. You're not going to turn around and go back to Main Street. It's our position the traffic (on Oregon) will back up even farther."

Part of what worries Wright is that currently, Oregon Street has two westbound lanes, a left turn lane and a straight through lane. With the new roadway configurations, the intent is to eliminate the left turn lane.

This is a major problem in the afternoons, Wright said, when nearby schools let out. During those times, cars attempting to turn left on Coshocton end up waiting an entire light cycle, so that only one car per light can make the turn.

With only one lane, Wright worries that this will back traffic up even more.

"Even a single car trying to turn left, one car could hold up 20 cars for an entire light cycle," Wright said. "When Oregon Elementary or Searfoss Elementary is letting out, you have all these cars going down Oregon Street."

Wright said the village had planned at one time to install slant parking on Oregon Street, which would have made the problem even worse. He said he was happy when that plan was dropped, giving fire trucks space to pull into the roadway.

Acting village manager Jim Lenner said traffic counts suggested that most of the congestion came not from the schools but from drivers on Main Street who had the same congestion problem at the primary intersection. To avoid that traffic, drivers cut down Phalen Way, next to the slant parking lot, then to Oregon, where the left turn is easier.

When the intersection reconfiguration is complete, there will not be congestion on Main Street and drivers will not feel the need to take the Phalen Way shortcut, he said.

"Drives are creatures of habit and they'll figure this out in the first two weeks," Lenner said.

He agreed that the department has a legitimate issue.

"Right now, if you have two lanes and three cars in the through lane and three cars in the turn lane, the fire department can still get out," Lenner said. "But if you have six cars in one lane, then they won't be able to get out. At least that's the contention."

Doug Morgan, ODOT project engineer, said he was confident there would not be congestion on Oregon, because traffic would flow well at the primary intersection. And traffic sensing devices at Oregon and Coshocton would help keep Oregon clear, he said.

"The two signals are going to be coordinated and that will help that whole area flow traffic better because you can set up the timing to allow the heavy traffic flows go quicker," Morgan said.

"In the morning it heads one direction and in the evening it heads the other way," he said. "We did traffic counts at all three of the intersections there. Putting that information into signal analysis helps us adjust our timing to allow the flow without extreme back-ups. We're not seeing any major problems at Oregon."

Both Lenner and Morgan said that if the projections are mistaken and traffic back-ups do occur in front of the fire station, the light timing can be easily adjusted.

Morgan said it would also be easy to give the fire department special light controls that allow the department to trigger green lights to clear the roadway ahead of the fire vehicles.