U.S. 35 crossing near library, development ‘scary’ for some pedestrians

City seeks grant to build pedestrian bridge at Abbey intersection, to access West branch library, Wright brothers site

Dayton leaders have big plans and high hopes for the Wright brothers’ airplane factory site in West Dayton, but right now they are trying to make a nearby crossing that kids and pedestrians use less dangerous.

Some people cross eight traffic and turn lanes at the intersection of U.S. 35 and Abbey Avenue to get to the West Branch library located on the project site, which has alarmed some city officials, commissioners and community members.

“There’s been a lot of discussion and concern about the danger of crossing the street by the West metro library,” Dayton City Commissioner Shenise Turner-Sloss said in a social media post on Instagram.

Some safety upgrades have been made at the intersection, but officials say more are needed and a long-term, permanent solution could be to construct a new, multimillion-dollar pedestrian bridge.

“In the short-term, it is critically important that we have enhanced safety measures because we know that our kids are out and about at a much younger age than kids in perhaps other suburban communities,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

The city is helping redevelop the 54-acre former Delphi plant and Wright brothers’ airplane factory site between West Third Street and U.S. 35.

The city and the National Aviation Heritage Alliance want to create a new public cultural facility in the historic hangar buildings, and the larger goal is to attract new developers to help turn the property into a walkable, thriving campus.

In February, the Dayton Metro Library opened its new $12.1 million West Branch near the southwest corner of the property.

Some kids, families and community members walk to the new library, and some who come from the neighborhoods south of the facility cross U.S. 35 at Abbey Avenue.

At that intersection, U.S. 35 has eight lanes and a 50 mph speed limit, and about 35,000 vehicles use the roadway every day.

Some motorists fly by at much higher speeds, and crashes are fairly common along that stretch of highway.

On a recent weekday afternoon, the Dayton Daily News observed several motorists run red lights at the intersection.

Between 2015 and 2020, 84 crashes happened at that intersection, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. ODOT says it has no record of pedestrian crashes at the intersection since at least 2015.

“The area should not be considered pedestrian-friendly because conditions do include high traffic volume, high speeds and long crossing distances,” said Brian Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission. “The site has been an abandoned factory for decades; however, more development that will likely increase the frequency of pedestrian and bike traffic is planned for the site and could lead to future crashes.”

U.S. 35 is under ODOT’s jurisdiction, but the city is working with the state to try to make it safer, Dickstein said.

Enhanced crosswalk markings that look like piano keys were added to the crossing in late 2021, Dickstein said. The city also doubled the amount of time signals give pedestrians to cross, and the signals now have countdown clocks.

The city has been exploring ways to improve the safety of the intersection’s built environment, she said, and public works staff removed overgrown weeds and brush and installed new street lights to improve visibility.

Public works has submitted a grant application seeking $3.5 million to construct a new pedestrian bridge over the highway, Dickstein said.

The city also is looking at another potential federal funding source that could help pay for the project, she said. That would be funding in the bipartisan infrastructure bill set aside for reconnecting communities divided by transportation infrastructure.

More immediately, Dickstein said neighborhood assistance officers are being assigned shifts at the library during its operating hours to help out.

Those volunteers drive vehicles that are similar to police vehicles that will be parked nearby with their lights on to encourage drivers to slow down.

Dickstein said she would also like to see a short-term crossing guard system put into place to assist young people cross the highway safely.

Dayton also plans to add mobile speed trailers in the area, and the city is considering adding a red light camera at the intersection.

ODOT will continue to look at the area to determine what changes might be feasible, a spokesperson said.

Tinsey Mosley, 82, lives just down the road from the West Branch library and can see the new facility from her front porch.

But Mosley has never been inside.

Mosley has lived at her home for 38 years but she says she’s never crossed U.S. 35 at Abbey Avenue on foot and she has a hard time understanding why anyone would.

She said her cousin was killed in a crash in that area.

“It’s dangerous — I hate to go up that way,” she said.

Mosley, who stopped driving a couple of years ago, said she would love to visit the new library because it looks beautiful, but she will have to wait until someone can drive her there.

“I want to go there so bad, but I’m scared to go across and I’ll have to wait until I can find somebody to carry me across,” she said. “I don’t know how we are supposed to get over there — are we supposed to fly across?”

Mosley said she would walk to the library if there was a pedestrian bridge nearby.

The West Branch Library had more than 335 daily visitors in June, but the library has not received any complaints or comments about the pedestrian crossing or its conditions from patrons since the facility opened in February, said Jeffrey Trzeciak, Dayton Metro Library executive director.

But Trzeciak said he’s pleased that the city has formed a group that has been meeting to discuss the safety of library visitors and traffic conditions and the pedestrian experience. The library is involved.

”Naturally, safe access to our branch is important to (Dayton Metro Library), and has been since we signed an MOU with the city to purchase the site for the West Branch,” Trzeciak said.

About the Author