WESTFIELD TWP. — After hearing residents’ comments Tuesday about safety at U.S. Route 224 and Westfield Road and whether changes in traffic patterns could make the situation worse, Ohio Department of Transportation officials said they would do more research.
ODOT is proposing the median crossover at the intersection be closed and replaced with a system of U-turns called “RCUTS,” or restricted crossing U-turns. The project, tentatively scheduled for 2019, would cost about $578,000.
“This isn’t a one-and-done,” District 3 Deputy Director Howard Huebner said, meaning ODOT would not rush to begin construction with minimal input. “Our goal is not to shed traffic (to other routes). If we don’t get support, we won’t do the project.”
Resident Ron Oiler, who lives on Buffham Road at Westfield Road and can see what happens at the Route 224 intersection daily, said he believes the U-turn system is a bad idea — and dangerous.
“Just think of a bus going south on Westfield and then making a right turn, moving across two lanes of traffic and then making a U-turn,” he said.
That’s the way a new traffic pattern would be created as southbound traffic would make a tiny detour on Route 224 before getting back on Westfield.
“A bus is not going to make it,” he said.
Julie Cichello, of ODOT’s District 3 planning and engineering department, explained that RCUTS have been created in 11 states and statistics show crash reductions.
Others at the meeting said they were concerned that closing the median and creating a U-turn system might push drivers to avoid that area and use Leroy or Vandemark roads instead.
An analysis covering 2002 to 2012 showed 24 crashes with 12 resulting in injuries and one fatality at the intersection. The majority of the vehicles were traveling south on Westfield Road.
Huebner said ODOT’s new research before the next meeting would be called “modeling”: The traffic count on Westfield and Leroy roads would be simulated to address the concern about heavier usage of the other parallel routes.
“We’ll move everything off Westfield (in the simulation) and see what it would look like,” he said.
After protests from businesses in Sharon Township, ODOT recently retreated from a plan to install guardrails on state Route 18 between Windfall Road and Medina Line Road.
“We’ll set up a meeting with the (Westfield) village and the township,” Huebner said. “Our advice is free. Maybe we can come to some solutions.”
Kevin Slife, a Westfield Village councilman, said he would look forward to a future meeting on the topic.
ODOT is “listening and that’s encouraging,” he said. “I’m just surprised how they prioritized where this would happen.”
Contact Managing Editor Lawrence Pantages at (330) 721-4065 or email@example.com.