Whitehall is home to one of Ohio's most crash-prone intersections, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, but the state's planned upgrades at East Main Street and South Hamilton Road should make it safer for motorists.
The intersection has been identified as among the most dangerous in Ohio, and as such, it is part of a study ODOT has initiated to examine current traffic patterns and evaluate potential alternatives to reduce accidents at intersections throughout Ohio, said Brooke Ebersole, public information officer for ODOT, District 6.
As part of the Governor's Top 150 safety project, ODOT is soliciting stakeholders throughout the state at meetings, including one held Jan. 22 at Whitehall City Hall, concerning East Main Street and South Hamilton Road
Officials at the Jan. 22 meeting presented four alternatives to modify the intersection.
The public-comment period for the intersection is open through Feb. 5 via email at email@example.com or by letter to Becky Wagner at ODOT, 400 E. William St., Delaware 43015.
ODOT is expected to select an option in March, and preliminary right-of-way plans would continue in 2020, followed by final design work next year, said Breanna Badanes, public-information officer for ODOT, Central Ohio.
"We're going to do something but we haven't determined exactly what yet," Badanes said.
Construction is not scheduled to begin until fall 2022.
Proposed alternatives include 4-feet concrete medians on East Main Street and South Hamilton Road and pavement widening on the north and south sides of East Main Street; another proposal calls for widening only the south side of East Main.
A third option proposes the use of Qwick Kurb, a trade name for a style of flexible bollard meant to prevent vehicles from turning across opposing lanes of traffic.
Concrete medians would be built on South Hamilton Road, but Qwick Kurb would be installed on East Main Street in one proposal; another calls for Qwick Kurb on both roads.
In all scenarios, a Sunoco gas station and Wendy's restaurant would have reduced access points, according to the alternatives ODOT presented to Whitehall leaders and residents.
Whitehall service director Zach Woodruff said he would wait for ODOT to inform the city of its recommendation for the intersection but said the city is opposed to the use of bollards.
"They are a nightmare to maintain and look like garbage," he said.
The bollards often are damaged in accidents or by heavy equipment such as snowplows, Woodruff said.
But, he said, the city acknowledges the need to find safety improvements for the intersection.
In 2017, East Main Street and South Hamilton Road was No. 26 on a list of urban intersections statewide with the highest potential for reducing crashes, Badanes said.
That year, 12 injury crashes and 22 property-damage crashes were reported there.
In 2018, nine injury crashes and 29 property-damage crashes were reported.
The data for 2019 is preliminary but indicate 13 injury crashes and 20 property-damage crashes.
For the six-year period from 2014 through 2019, 64 injury crashes and 153 property-damage crashes were reported.
Only one fatal crash occurred during the six-year period, in 2015, according to statistics provided by ODOT.
The average daily volume at the intersection in 2019 was 23,000 vehicles on East Main Street, west of the intersection, and 24,800 vehicles on South Hamilton Road, south of the intersection.
But rather than using accident rates, ODOT prioritizes locations based on the potential for reducing crashes, Badanes said.
The Whitehall intersection isn't the only one in line for state upgrades: The crossroads of East Broad Street and Hamilton Road also could receive updates in 2022.
The project is still in design, but preliminary plans would modify driveways and turn lanes to add capacity and improve safety, Badanes said.