Fairfield may have answer to traffic concerns on highly traveled road

Pleasant Avenue, north of Nilles Road, has one of the worst traffic crash rates in the city despite the low number of crashes. From 2017 to 2019, there were 21 accidents with four injuries in the stretch that sees 18,000 vehicles a day. “It puts this stretch on par in terms of crash rate with sections of Ohio 4 in South Gilmore,” said city engineer Nick Dill. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF
Pleasant Avenue, north of Nilles Road, has one of the worst traffic crash rates in the city despite the low number of crashes. From 2017 to 2019, there were 21 accidents with four injuries in the stretch that sees 18,000 vehicles a day. “It puts this stretch on par in terms of crash rate with sections of Ohio 4 in South Gilmore,” said city engineer Nick Dill. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Study’s data to get initial feedback from City Council, before helping figure out next steps, official says.

It’s been a question without an answer for 40 years, but Fairfield staff may be able to finally address traffic concerns in the city’s town center.

The city in November authorized a $20,000 study to be conducted by the planning, design and architecture firm MKSK, with assistance from LJB Engineering. The point of the study was to collect information, which was presented to City Council on Monday evening.

Fairfield Development Services Director Greg Kathman said there is no planned project attached to the data.

“We’re just trying to get the information out and get some initial feedback from (Council) before we take it out to the broader community and figure out next steps,” he said.

This study is the latest project born out of the city’s December 2019-adopted Fairfield Forward comprehensive plan. It’s a topic that was addressed in a public meeting in 1982, Kathman said citing a 1982 Fairfield Sun news article about city planners redrawing the traffic plan along this same stretch of Pleasant Avenue.

“Here we are again talking about the same area,” said Kathman. “There’s not a whole lot different in 39 years.”

Out of this latest study, recommendations for this third-of-a-mile stretch known as Fairfield’s town center include continued revitalization of the aging commercial area and traffic improvements. This stretch of Pleasant Avenue, from Nilles Road to the Pleasant Run Creek has 27 curb cuts, most of which are at the Reigert Square.

“It creates a lot of driver and pedestrian confusion, a lot of potential conflict points in the area, and from a safety perspective it’s not the best, most ideal situation in the world,” said Kathman.

Fairfield City Engineer Nick Dill said from 2017 to 2019, there were 21 accidents, four with injuries. Although that’s not a large number, it is for this stretch that sees 18,000 vehicles a day. He said this many accidents in such a small stretch of road is “on par in terms of crash rate with sections of Ohio 4 and South Gilmore.”

“It’s one of the higher crash-rate stretches we have in the city,” Dill said. “People can be knuckleheads out there and the road almost encourages it.”

The flaw in the design is the “drop lane” along Pleasant Avenue at Patterson Drive. The left northbound lane stops at Patterson, which causes a conflicting merge point. Many times, as shown on video to City Council on Monday, motorists speed up and cut off traffic in the right lane in order to continue north on Pleasant Avenue, also known as U.S. 127.

Public Works Director Ben Mann said none of the options presented is the answer to the problem, but “that doesn’t mean the answer’s not there. I just think we need to put a little more work into refining options.”

Improvement options include reducing overabundant access points into the 46 businesses along the 1,700-foot corridor. But reducing the 27 curb cuts to a reasonable number would impact the parking lot at Reigert Square, said Mann.

Redesigning the Reigert Square parking lot requires buy-in from each business owner, as most of the storefronts are separately owned. Two ideas to improve safety by reducing the curb cuts include a public-private partnership that would reduce the number of parking spaces ― one option calls for a 22% reduction and another calls for a 16% reduction.

Mann said he doesn’t expect all business owners to be on board, and may have to do the project piecemeal, which “may set a good example” and encourage others to join on board.

Then there are the options to reconfigure Pleasant Avenue.

Options range from a restriping and alteration of the traffic pattern to either eliminating or adding an entire lane. Problems with any of the options range from vehicle stacking and a shifting of the merge and conflict points to degrading the road’s efficiency, Mann said.