Worthington News

State Route 161

Group fighting city on location of multi-use path

West Dublin-Granville Road's residents continue to document accidents

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Mike Middaugh has a tree in his front yard that he says is "accident-prone."

"In fact, there are car parts embedded in it," the West Dublin-Granville Road resident said last week.

Middaugh and many of his neighbors have banded together to form Safety First 161, a group fighting the location of a proposed multiuse path along a 2.2-mile stretch of busy state Route 161.

Group members say they believe the decision to build the path on the north side of the road -- their side -- already is a done deal. City officials deny that and repeatedly have said no final decision has been made whether the path would be on the north or south side of the street.

The genesis for the group, which has a Facebook page on which members post pictures of accidents in or near their properties, was resident Roger Wagner one day last spring noticing a man standing in his front yard.

When asked what he was doing there, Wagner said the fellow told him he was "doing an audit" for a shared-use path that was to go through part of that yard.

"We were concerned that something was moving forward that we had not been informed about at all," said Stan Apseloff, who lives two doors away from Wagner.

"We didn't know enough about it to instantly object to it."

He and his neighbors began to participate in the planning process, Apseloff said, but weren't all that impressed with it.

"It just felt like the process was moving in one direction kind of blindly," Apseloff said.

The neighbors undertook research to back their claims the north side was inherently more dangerous for users of the path than the south, because of frequent traffic accidents, according to Apseloff.

That stretch of roadway has a speed limit of 45 mph and is used by 17,000 vehicles each day, with constant stopping and starting of the traffic flow because of numerous driveways and business entrances, Apseloff said.

"It results in lots of accidents, two-thirds of which are rear-end collisions," he said.

Members of Safety First 161 have compiled a list of 276 accidents reported to the Division of Police between 2009 and 2011, and have uncovered another 40-plus in Perry Township records.

"Those are just reported accidents, and we know darn well that a tremendous amount of accidents don't get reported," Apseloff said.

The township's board of trustees went on record June 3 in a letter to Mayor Michael B. Coleman calling for a safety assessment of that stretch of road and reconsideration of locating the shared-used path to the south side of the street.

"As noted in prior emails, consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act process, the project team is reviewing and documenting all comments received from residents, property owners, businesses, affected jurisdictions, coordinating agencies and other stakeholders," said Marie Keister, public involvement lead for the SR-161 Shared-Use Path Project on behalf of a firm called Engage Public Affairs LLC, in an email to Apseloff responding to the trustees' letter.

"We will be continuing to gather more information and conduct additional technical and environmental analysis late this summer and early fall, which will be considered in the decision-making process.

"Public input helps guide this analysis, which in turn generates the information needed to provide well-considered res-ponses to comments and questions, and more fully informs the decision-making process.

"Public and stakeholder input will be summarized and responded to in the NEPA document, which will also include technical findings as well as individual correspondence and emails. We anticipate the NEPA document will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation late this year."

As the name of the organization implies, with Safety First 161 it's safety first, and not anything to do with members losing some of their property to the path if it goes on the north side, Apseloff insisted.

"I'm not going to lose any considerable property, and in fact they might be able to do this in the existing right of way," Apseloff said.

"It's simply not a substantial property issue, but it's easy for people to think these are just NIMBY -- 'not in my backyard' people," he said. "It is a safety issue, and it is an obvious safety issue."

"We feel it's our responsibility to get enough facts before the city so they don't waste money on this path," Safety First 161 member Jim Damschroder said.

"There's so much more room on the south side," Apseloff said. "They could make it much safer.

"It's going to look and feel safe, and it won't be. The city calls it safe. That will attract, unfortunately, children and teenagers. I cringe when I think of that."

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