Olentangy Valley News

Powell will wait on 'pork chop' until golfers leave

Traffic island temporarily will prevent left turns onto Depot Street downtown, but test on hold until after Memorial Tournament

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Powell will wait until after the Memorial Tournament to introduce a major traffic change near the downtown area.

The city plans to construct a temporary "pork chop" -- a traffic island that resembles a cut of meat -- at the intersection of Olentangy and Depot streets just east of the CSX railroad tracks. The island would prevent drivers from turning left onto Depot Street from Olentangy Street.

Although the materials for the pork chop have arrived, city spokeswoman Megan Canavan said the city engineer's office recommended delaying the project until the end of the Memorial Tournament, which runs May 26 to June 1 in Dublin. The annual golf event leads to heavy traffic in Powell, which is located about five miles east of Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Canavan said the purpose of the temporary traffic change would be to see how normal traffic flow responds to a ban on left turns at Depot Street. Preventing turns the week of the tournament likely wouldn't serve that purpose and could create further problems.

"It wouldn't necessarily be a normal week to test that," she said.

Canavan said the pork chop likely will remain in place until city officials determine a permanent solution for the intersection.

Powell City Council approved the implementation of the temporary traffic island in March during discussions about potential safety improvements near the railroad tracks.

Preventing left turns onto Depot Street is a key part of the proper installation of a queue-cutter traffic signal at the train tracks. The signal would turn red as traffic congestion builds up on the east side of the tracks, preventing drivers from getting caught on the tracks between stopped cars.

Council favors the installation of the signal, but it has not yet finalized the fate of Depot Street. If city officials view the temporary island as successful, a permanent one likely will be constructed.

Left turns onto Depot Street already are prohibited during rush hours, a ban city officials say motorists often ignore.

Powell Police Chief Gary Vest said his department's officers will be less likely to give warnings and more likely to issue tickets for illegal turns after the temporary pork chop is in place.

"When you have to physically drive around something to break the law, then we start issuing tickets," he said.

Vest said the department previously has taken more of an educational role in traffic enforcement in the area. He has said that without physical barriers, no number of tickets would keep people from stopping on the tracks or turning left on Depot Street.

Other solutions that have been discussed for preventing left turns at Depot Street include blocking off the intersection completely or turning it into a one-way street.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission, a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation, has offered to fund the portion of the queue-cutter project within the railroad right of way. First, however, the agency has stipulated the city must block left turns at Depot Street.

Along with the traffic change at Depot Street, the commission has suggested the construction of a left-turn lane at Olentangy and Hall streets. Late last month, commission officials informed the city they would still fund the project without the new turn lane at Hall Street, if the city chose not to build it.

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