BIDWELL — A group of citizens concerned about the intersection of state routes 554 and 160 and what they consider to be a high volume of crashes in the area has sparked the Ohio Department of Transportation into investigating traffic flow in the area.
Kelly McGuire is a Gallia County parent of a young woman who traveled through the same intersection a few weeks ago and suffered a collision coming through the crossroads. After a crash Monday involving a pickup truck and a sedan resulted in one girl being airlifted to Cabell Huntingon Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., McGuire started a Facebook group that attracted 1100 members within two days. McGuire aims to have members sign a petition asking for a stoplight or other such signage to be added to the intersection. She named her Facebook group “Save Lives … Fight for a Light.”
Members have since started sharing stories, photos and concerns with drivers traveling at what group members claim as high rates of speed and practicing dangerous driving techniques through the intersection. The intersection also plays host to The Korner Convenience Store and Restaurant, which serves as a popular location for travelers, locals and students.
River Valley middle and high schools are just a short jog from the intersection., which is located roughly a mile north of the schools’ main entrance that connects with State Route 160. During bus delivery times, drivers are mandated to travel at 20 mph. Other times, the standard speed limit traveling both state routes is 55 mph. State Route 160 runs continuously through the intersection while State Route 554 has two stop signs to control drivers.
According to Ohio State Highway Patrol Statistical Analysis Unit records, there have been no fatalities at the intersection as far back as 2009. That year, records show two injury crashes.
In 2010, there were five injury crashes and one property damage crash. In 2011, one crash injured an individual and two property damage crashes were recorded. Records show for 2012 that two injury crashes and two property damage crashes occurred. Three injury crashes and two property damage crashes were recorded in 2013.
Records for 2014 say that the intersection played host to five separate injury crashes as well as two property damage crashes. Last year, records show there being one injury crash and two property damage crashes. As of this year, there have been only two injury crashes. Total collisions over the time period in question is 33, with 21 injury crashes and 12 property damage crashes.
Kelly McGuire told the Daily Tribune she thinks it is a matter of time before a student is killed in the intersection due to congested traffic conditions before and after school — or because of irresponsible driving.
Lt. Max Norris, commander of the Ohio Highway State Patrol post on Jackson Pike, said it is the agency’s highest priority to keep individuals safe on the road while enforcing existing laws and preventing dangerous situations. Local troopers do the best they can within the resources allowed to them and will investigate areas they consider to be high danger zones, he said.
David Rose, a public information officer with ODOT, said the government organization is in the process of investigating short- and long-term solutions to address public concerns. He said the agency is in the midst of placing 48-inch LED light stop signs along State Route 554, after which, the organization is discussing a plan for a “full-blown” traffic study to determine driver behavior and the flow of vehicles moving through the area.
According to Rose, while ODOT is a type of engineering firm that deals in roadway design, it is “difficult to engineer driver behavior.” There will always be drivers that drive irresponsibly.
Both the OSHP and ODOT told the Daily Tribune they appreciate public interaction and do the best they can to serve the public’s safety.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Jackson Pike office can be contacted at (740) 446-2433; and the ODOT District 10 office in Marietta can be contacted at (740) 568-3900.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.