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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2001

Jet Express move arouses safety concerns

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORT CLINTON - Plans by the Jet Express to move at least some of its ferry operations up the Portage River away from downtown have created a potential safety headache for the city.

The boat line's new terminal would be just south of a drawbridge and just north of a 90-degree turn, meaning passengers would have to cross busy State Rt. 163 to go to and from their cars in a Jet-owned parking lot.

“That is probably the worst intersection in town as far as being confusing, as luck would have it,” police Chief Walter Bahnsen said.

Dan Bryan, Port Clinton's safety-service director, said motorists coming from east and west have to turn shortly before reaching the drawbridge, giving them limited time to stop for a red light or pedestrians in a crosswalk.

As eastbound motorists reach the bridge, the speed limit drops from 35 to 25, but Mr. Bryan and Chief Bahnsen said many drivers don't slow down.

“There's a line-of-sight issue ... and we also have concerns because people do fly around that thing,” Mr. Bryan said. “Realize that the speed limit is 25, but without constant vigilance by the police, people don't follow the speed limit.”

Chief Bahnsen said his officers spend plenty of time nabbing eastbound speeders approaching the bridge on Route 163, also known as Lake Shore Drive on the west side of the river. “Lake Shore Drive is 35 [mph] just until you get before the bridge,” he said. “It's wide open, so we tend to write a lot of tickets there.”

The chief worries that motorists trying to brake suddenly on the bridge's metal deck could have trouble stopping for people in a crosswalk.

“All it takes is one person who's driving fast or who is intoxicated,” he said. “It's a funny thing, but a light that's red doesn't mean they're going to stop.”

Mr. Bryan said the city estimates that during peak tourist times, such as summer weekends, about 2,000 pedestrians a day would go back and forth across Route 163 to use the new Jet Express terminal and 875-space parking lot.

“I can foresee a real problem when the Jet moves down there,” he said. “People are going to be running all over trying to get across the street. So something needs to be done.”

Mr. Bryan said the city has spoken once with Jet Express officials about their crosswalk plans and once with the boat line's traffic engineers.

The company, which runs ferries between Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay from April to October, has told the city it plans to move from a dock at the foot of Jefferson Street to the former Portage Entry Marina this summer, Mr. Bryan said.

Bill Blumensaadt, a vice president for the Put-in-Bay Boat Line Co., which operates the Jet Express, could not be reached for comment about the company's plans.


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