Two more fatalities at a deadly highway intersection have prompted Huber Heights City Council to consider eliminating the crossing, pending a study into what impact the closure could have on area traffic.
The intersection of New Carlislie Pike and Ohio 4 has long been the site of accidents, officials said, and recent attempts to make safety improvements didn’t stop two fatalities at the crossing in September.
“Since 2012, we’ve had 15 accidents there that involved failure to yield when crossing,” said Huber Heights Police Chief Mark Lightner, who said the collisions have resulted in three fatalities and 20 injuries.
One of those crashes involved a Springfield man, Robert Bayless, 63, who died traveling south on Ohio 4 on a foggy morning in November 2015 when a truck tried to cut across to turn north. Bayless’ vehicle hit and went under the tractor-trailer.
“Not only is it a bad intersection but the fog made it 10 times worse,” said Sgt. Chris Johnson after the crash.
The city attempted to make fixes, including forcing trucks on New Carlisle Pike to turn right and exit at Chambersburg Road before re-entering the highway northbound.
But in September, Richard Serow, 77, and Craig Serow, 48, both of Enon, died when the silver Honda they drove pulled off New Carlisle Pike into the path of a northbound Ford truck on Ohio 4. The vehicles collided and slid off the right side of Ohio 4, where the Honda flipped onto its side, throwing the men through the car.
The dual-fatality crash involving the father and son last month moved city council to ask staff to take another look at options to improve safety, including removing the paved median to close the intersection.
“If you do that, it will stop the accidents,” said City Engineer Russell Bergman.
Closing the intersection, however, could be problematic for truck drivers needing to access businesses on New Carlisle Pike, or the residents of a mobile home park east of Ohio 4 outside the Huber Heights city limits, whose only way out of their neighborhood would require a trip on Interstate 70.
“I believe closing the median would be the right thing to do,” Lightner said. “I believe the minor inconvenience it creates for people going either direction is not that bad.”
Councilman Richard Shaw tended to agree with Lightner’s analysis.
“The difference, if you were to close that median, the residents would be looking at a five minute drive time,” Shaw said. “I guarantee you people are sitting there waiting five minutes to turn left.”
Any change to the intersection would require the approval of the Ohio Department of Transportation, Bergman said.
“At one point, ODOT actually looked at doing an overpass,” Bergman said during a recent city council work session, noting such a fix would be cost prohibitive.
Other options floated included revival of a decade-old plan to re-route New Carlisle Pike down to Chambersburg Road — a plan that would likely cost as much as $1 million, officials said, in addition to right-of-way issues with landowners.
“Of the two that we’ve talked about, while I think the roadway would be nice insofar as it provides that access, the concern I’ve got is too much cost, not enough benefit,” said Vice Mayor Tyler Starline. He said “bringing the median up and closing that off, it’s a bit of an inconvenience in certain ways, but quite frankly, a couple of lives saved, I can’t even put a dollar amount to that.”
Huber Heights Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mark Bruns suggested council could consider adding flashing lights and signage on Ohio 4 as a way to caution drivers instead of blocking off the intersection, which he said could cause transportation issues for the three light-industrial businesses on New Carlisle Pike.
Council asked Bergman to go forward with a traffic study, which would typically cost between $5,000 to $10,000, he said.