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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

ODOT says no to light at Finzel Rd.

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Acting on ODOT's study of the State Rt. 64 intersection with the northern half of Finzel Road, officials plan only to place a larger stop sign on southbound Finzel, supplement it with a sign reminding motorists that Route 64 traffic does not stop, and replace a nearby “Stop Ahead” sign. Signs advising Route 64 motorists of the offset intersection will be posted on the main road.

Joe Rutherford, a spokesman at the department's district office in Bowling Green, said traffic counts taken in early June proved to be about 12 percent lower than the legally required threshold for a traffic signal, and accidents that a traffic signal might prevent weren't frequent enough, either.

“We recognize that the whole area out there is growing dramatically, and it's not going to take long for that 12 percent increase in traffic to occur,” Mr. Rutherford said. But such rapid growth is common in developing suburban areas, he said, and legally, the state can't anticipate “what might be there in five years.”

ODOT started the study, its second review of the intersection since 1999, after a May 19 collision involving three cars, two of which were occupied by Anthony Wayne students. Two of the five students involved were hurt seriously.

Laura Henry, whose daughter was hurt, was dismayed yesterday by the findings. “It's a mess. I can't believe they're not going to do anything,” she said. “School's going to start soon, and I'm sure there'll be more [accidents]. Maybe when somebody does get killed, they will do something.”

Randy Hardy, school superintendent, said when the study started he hoped a signal would be approved, even if not justified strictly by the numbers, because of teenage drivers' tendency to take risks.

But yesterday, school district spokesman Susan Cross said school officials were “very satisfied with the review from ODOT” and would accept the agency's promise to review accidents and traffic volumes at the intersection annually. “We feel confident it was a thorough investigation,” she said.

To qualify for a traffic signal, an intersection must meet at least one of 11 criteria, known as warrants, outlined in the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. With few exceptions, a traffic engineer must stick to those guidelines, which consider such factors as traffic volume, accident history, and intersection layout.

Mr. Rutherford said state engineers looked at the Finzel-64 corner from every possible angle, but none of the relevant statistics came anywhere near where a little discretion could put it over the top.

ODOT's traffic study found that of 11 accidents at Finzel and Route 64 in 2000, 2001, and 2002, only four - and maybe not even all of those - may have been prevented by a traffic signal. To qualify for a signal based on accidents, five crashes that a signal might have prevented must have occurred within 12 months.

The most common accident type during the three study years was rear-end collisions at the stop sign on Finzel. There were five.

In five of the 11 crashes, a teenage driver was at fault. But the ages of drivers involved in crashes, or among the general driving population at a particular site, aren't among the traffic-signal criteria.

The May 19 crash, and any others at the intersection this year were not included in the study because of incomplete data, but will be considered when complete 2003 statistics are compiled early next year, Mr. Rutherford said.

Parents of young drivers everywhere need to stress safety and compliance with traffic laws, he said. “There's nothing so important that you break the traffic laws to get there. There's too much risk,” Mr. Rutherford said.



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