Dunkirk drops its fight againstred light removal


DUNKIRK, Ohio Officials in the Hardin County village of Dunkirk have dropped their refusal to let the Ohio Department of Transportation remove a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 68 and State Rt. 81.

Kirk Slusher, planning administrator for ODOT s District office in Lima, said the light would be switched to flasher mode blinking red for traffic on State Rt. 81 and yellow for vehicles on U.S. 68 next week as part of a process that will likely lead to its removal.

ODOT began steps to take down the light after receiving a letter last week from the village that agreed to the change under certain conditions.

To meet those conditions, ODOT will count vehicles on U.S. 68 and record their speed during a traffic study to begin today, Dunkirk Mayor Pam Ruhlen said. The study is to continue into next week, when the switch to blinking lights is expected to take effect.

Mr. Slusher said ODOT is painting new stop bars on State Rt. 81, installing stop signs at the intersection, and adding signs to inform motorists that the signal is being studied for removal. ODOT also is doubling a 500-feet, 35-mph zone south of the intersection on U.S. 68.

ODOT plans to periodically monitor the intersection for six months and then decide whether to remove the light.

The state told Dunkirk this year that the signal, which has stood there for over 50 years, should be removed because it was contributing to accidents. The state said the village faced legal action if it didn t comply.

Last month, Mr. Slusher told The Blade that 13 of 17 accidents at the intersection during a five-year period starting in 2000 were caused by motorists running red lights or rear-ending other vehicles that stopped for red lights.

Dunkirk officials initially refused to agree to the light s removal, but Mayor Ruhlen said she and members of Village Council changed their minds because of liability concerns. But she s still unhappy at the prospect of losing the signal.

It s a safety issue for our kids, our residents, and I just feel the state is doing it to be doing it, and I don t feel it s right, she said. They pulled the permit, and if somebody would get hurt there, the town s totally responsible because we didn t remove that traffic light.