Dayton has battle plan to fight ‘hooning,’ automobile ‘clown acts’ on Gettysburg

City is also starting design work on pedestrian bridge over U.S. 35 at Abbey

Dayton has developed an action plan to combat illegal street racing, “automobile circus acts” and “hooning” on Gettysburg Avenue.

But these are short-term interventions, and the long-term fix is major road reconstruction, officials said.

“There’s going to be a Gettysburg redesign that’s going to incorporate permanent changes,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein. “But the problem with road design work is much of that work is funded five years out, so we want to get something in place (now).”

The city also wants to begin design work on a pedestrian bridge over U.S. 35 that would make it easier and much safer for people to cross the highway to reach the new West Dayton library branch.

The Dayton City Commission recently had the first reading of an ordinance amending the city’s 2022 appropriations, which includes $400,000 in funding for Gettysburg Avenue safety improvements.

Gettysburg Avenue, which runs north to south, is a straight thoroughfare for more than six miles, similar to a drag strip, which is one of the main reasons it is a hotbed of illegal street racing, said City Manager Dickstein.

Dickstein several months ago publicly raised concerns about unsafe driving activities on Gettysburg Avenue, which came after a fatal crash along the roadway killed four people.

She said motorists have been taking part in “clown acts” and “hooning” — a term used to describe reckless driving behaviors like drifting, burnouts and donuts.

The city wants to add obstacles to make it harder for vehicles to speed and perform donuts and 360s on the roadway, she said.

The city proposes using general fund money to pay for “Jersey” barriers, raised speed tables, countdown traffic signals and marked crosswalks, Dickstein said.

Cement barricades will be placed along the center of Gettysburg Avenue between Salem Avenue and Free Pike to try to deter some dangerous driving activities, according to Fred Stovall, Dayton’s director of public works.

Five speed tables will be added, which are asphalt or rubber mounds that basically work as speed humps, but with flat tops.

Speed tables slow down traffic but still allow vehicles to travel over them at higher speeds than speed bumps.

The city also wants to install five sets of speed cushions (also called speed humps) where center medians exist between West Third Street and Salem Avenue, Stovall said.

The city plans to upgrade Gettysburg’s intersections with piano key-type markings and countdown signals, to make it easier for pedestrians to cross safely.

The city will evaluate the impact of the roadway changes to see if more interventions are needed or if they’ve caused any issues, officials said.

The improvements should start soon and be completed by the end of October, Stovall said.

“We believe these traffic calming implementations and pedestrian enhancements, along with police enforcement, will calm the traffic situation,” Stovall said.

The city has talked about wanting to put Gettysburg on a road diet, shrinking the number of lanes of traffic or road size and making other infrastructure changes.

That should help calm and slow traffic while also improving the pedestrian experience and their safety, officials said.

But it can take years to acquire infrastructure funding and complete roadway projects, and the city wants to take immediate action.

Dayton police Chief Kamran Afzal said police details have been working along Gettysburg to try to catch traffic-law violators and deter dangerous illegal activities like speeding.

Traffic enforcement is useful, but law enforcement resources are limited, and changing motorists’ perceptions of the roadway through some of the planned improvements would be especially helpful, Afzal said.

Making the roadway feel more narrow would help slow drivers down, he said.

Bridge over U.S. 35

Dayton’s proposed appropriations ordinance also authorizes the city to spend about $100,000 on design and environmental work for a proposed pedestrian bridge across U.S. 35, at Abbey Avenue.

Neighbors and city leaders say it is very dangerous to cross U.S. 35′s eight lanes of traffic and turn lanes at Abbey Avenue.

However, some people who live in the neighborhoods south of U.S. 35, including some children, cross the highway to get to the new West Branch Dayton library, which opened earlier this year. The surrounding property also is being targeted for redevelopment.

The city has applied for grant funding and will go after a couple other sources of funding to pay for a new pedestrian bridge, the city manager said.

Public works estimates the new structure could cost $3.5 million to $4 million.

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