$2.6M sought to fix dangerous intersection

Ohio Department of Transportation District 7 wants to add a traffic signal at the bottom of the ramp from U.S. 68 southbound to Upper Valley Pike and widen the ramp by adding an additional turn lane. Officials also want to add turn lanes along U.S. 40 and Upper Valley.

The construction is part of a state program called RampClear, which was created in the summer of 2012 to reduce congestion on interchange ramps where traffic frequently backs up onto the freeway.

“These traffic queues are a serious safety concern as stopped vehicles co-mingled with high-speed traffic can lead to catastrophic crashes that result in serious injuries and deaths,” according to ODOT’s RampClear Program.

Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee Director Scott Schmid said during certain parts of the day, motorists on the ramp become backed up onto U.S. 68, creating safety risks for drivers.

“It’s a high-crash location. This is not going to get us everything we want for the intersection with the clover leaves being so close to the intersection,” Schmid said.

“We think we’re going to alleviate quite a few of the crashes coming down the hill there because of that additional turn lane. Some of the angle crashes coming off that ramp with the signal being there should be eliminated as well,” he continued.

Matt Parrill, District 7 planning and engineering administrator, said he and other transportation officials plan to present the project to ODOT’s safety team in Columbus this month. If it is approved, construction could begin in 2016 and be completed by year-end, he added.

The project would be paid for with state and federal dollars, Parrill said.

“The goal is to identify recurring bottlenecks on the freeway system and remove queued traffic from the freeway mainlines and to fix bottlenecks quickly and economically,” he said.

About 23,000 to 28,000 vehicles per day travel along U.S. 40 from the U.S. 68 ramps through Upper Valley.

Upper Valley from U.S. 40 through the U.S. 68 southbound ramp has about 12,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day. And about 3,350 vehicles per day travel along the U.S. 68 southbound ramp to Upper Valley, according to the TCC.

Schmid said this is the second time transportation officials have attempted to make changes to the intersection.

After a traffic study, the TCC recommended in 2005 putting a traffic signal at the U.S. 68 ramp and closing the looped ramp at the Masonic Home, Schmid said. But city officials were against the proposed project, he added.

If that project had been approved, “basically if you want to go to Springfield coming from the north you would have to take two lefts. The city didn’t approve that plan,” Schmid said.

Phyllis Ballard, who drives along that intersection frequently, said traffic can “get pretty bad” along U.S. 68.

“It’s impossible to get off of there,” Ballard said.

Ballard said if a motorist gets behind a semi-truck on the U.S. 68 ramp “you just sit there forever.”

“I have gone the opposite way of where I wanted to go, turned to the right so that I could get out and then turned around someplace and then come back,” she said.

Schmid said the upgrades should help reduce problems.

“We’ve been trying to piecemeal small fixes here and there to make a difference. It will be better for the intersection, but again with the interchange so close it’s still not an ideal situation,” he said.

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