Solutions sought for deadly stretch of road

Families of victims seek changes for western Clark County stretch of Ohio 235.

The Ohio Department of Transportation reconstructed the intersection 34 years ago, reducing the size of a hill on the road. It placed rumble strips and dual stop ahead signs on the road in 1980; listed the intersection for the first time in 1988 as one of the most dangerous intersections on the Highway Safety Improvement Program; installed flashing lights on stop signs in the early 1990s, and installed a traffic light at the intersection in 2000.

None of the changes worked.

The intersection where Tracy Walkup of Tipp City died June 26 is one of multiple problematic stretches of Ohio 235, which has had 12 fatal accidents along the road since 2006 and is currently being studied by ODOT and Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee officials for improvements.

Carol Trissel, who lives near Ohio 235 and Ohio 41, recently told transportation officials at a public meeting that residents want improvements immediately.

“This has got to stop,” Trissel said, noting there have been 41 accidents and four fatalities at the intersection in the last decade.

While the number of pedestrians and motorists killed on the state route aren’t eye-popping, the incidents baffle transportation officials who have been studying ways to improve road for decades.

ODOT and TCC officials are considering installing roundabouts and making other changes along Ohio 235, but Trissel questioned if rumble strips, left turning lanes, caution lights and other warning and driver safety signs could be installed on the road.

“Something, anything, please help us save lives at this intersection. It’s very, very dangerous. It’s very costly to families, to the state,” Trissel said. “Please, those that are in charge of transportation please help us save lives at our intersection. My life, my husband life and our community’s lives depend on it.”

TCC Director Scott Schmidt forwarded Trissel’s comments to ODOT, but said state officials had tried the recommended safety measures before.

“For an intersection like this, I would generally agree that low-cost stuff is the probably best way to go … But we’ve done all these things. All these low cost things and they’ve never corrected the severity issue. It’s not a frequency issue. There’s not a lot out there. It’s when there are incidents, they’re high severity, they’re fatals and injuries because of the rate of speed out there,” Schmidt said.

The speed limit on Ohio 235 is 55 mph.

Four pedestrians — Jonathan Gibson, Larry Downs, Yuezhuo Zheng and Audrey Williams — were killed between 2007 and 2010 after being struck by vehicles.

Sections of the road near Park Layne Elementary School lack crosswalks, pedestrian signals, signs and have too many entrances and exits that cause backups and safety problems, according to a recent study.

Officials blame driver error for accidents at the Ohio 235 and 41 intersection where Walkup and Linsday Hill, 31, of DeGraff, were killed this year.

Walkup was westbound on Ohio 41 when Joshua McDaniel, 21, of New Carlisle, collided with his vehicle as McDaniel attempted to turn left onto Ohio 235. Walkup, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene.

A second non-injury accident occurred at the same intersection while police investigated the fatal crash.

Lindsay Hill, 31, of DeGraff, was killed in a two-vehicle accident in May as she headed east on Ohio 41 and another vehicle headed south on Ohio 235. One of the vehicles ran a red light, causing a crash at the intersection.

Schmidt studies have failed to uncover problems with the intersection that could be corrected but speculated that speed and driver inattention were to blame for fatal accidents on Routes 235 and 41.

He said drivers encounter few traffic signals along the stretch and may be surprised when they encounter them and drive through red lights.

“I don’t think it’s a dangerous intersection at all. Only thing I can come up with is that it’s the lull of the rural highway and people just aren’t expecting it,” Schmidt said.

Williams’ sisters, Jackie Spears and Sherri Profitt, say Ohio 235 is too dark and needs patrol cars or speed cameras to make motorists slow down.

Both said something needs to be done to prevent another family from going through what they went through when their sister died Dec. 16, 2007.

“I can understand it being driver error, but there’s something wrong on that road because it keeps happening over and over again,” Profitt said. “We just drove by where she was killed, and it just brought up everything again. It’s so fresh. It’s just like happened yesterday.”

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