Motorists have been driving on the newly constructed Bypass Ohio 4 and three “superstreet” intersections in Butler County for more than a month, but the new design has some worried about safety and travel times.
The Ohio Department of Transportation’s three phases are complete, with the stretch of the bypass open to motorists.
The project was finished on time and on budget, at about $22.8 million, according to ODOT spokesperson Sharon Smigielski.
At three “superstreet” intersections where the bypass intersects with Symmes, Hamilton-Mason and Tylersville roads in Fairfield Twp., motorists can only make right turns, and are prevented from driving straight through the intersection.
The project was estimated to reduce traffic delays by up to 90 percent compared with a conventional intersection and reduce vehicle accidents, according to ODOT.
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But not all motorists are seeing the positive results of the new design, including the fire department.
More than 100 people who responded to a Journal question posted on its Facebook page said they had concerns with the design, and some said it was a waste of taxpayers money.
Fairfield Twp. Fire Chief David Downie said crews responding to calls have experienced a longer response time due to the superstreet intersections.
Two firehouses operate in the township — Station 211 is in the northern portion and located on the east side of the bypass, and Station 212 is in the southern portion, on the west side of the bypass.
“To get to one side or the other, we have to do the right turn and turn around at the U-turn and come back. Obviously it adds more time to the calls,” he said.
The newly designed bypass and superstreet intersections haven’t been open long enough for the department to collect and analyze response times, but he said “whatever amount of time it takes to make a right turn and the left turn is added on to our response time.”
The fire department recently applied for a $400,000 grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for traffic signal pre-emption devices, which cause lights to change for emergency vehicles.
“We’ve not experienced any major accidents since it’s been opened, so that’s a positive thing,” he said. “There’s just some rough edges to work out to make it better for us.”
Reaction from motorists has been mixed, Smigielski said, depending on what route they are taking.
David Garrity, of Fairfield Twp., takes Hamilton-Mason Road to the bypass, but because he can’t turn left to go northbound, he said his commute is longer.
“I’ve been calculating my time to cross the bypass — it took 56 seconds, and that should take, what, two seconds,” he said.
He said he avoids the bypass at all costs, not only for the longer commute, but also for what he perceives as safety issues, as more lights and longer distances could mean more accidents, he said.
“With winter coming up ... I can’t wait to see more people sliding and trying to pull the U-Turn,” he said. “Winter will be horrible.”
The bypass has always been, and will continue to be, designated as a “high priority” route for snow removal by ODOT, Smigielski said.
Garrity said he has been in contact with ODOT officials, has emailed Gov. John Kasich and talked to township officials to voice his concerns over the bypass.
Delineators — 36-inch poles with reflective lights — have been placed on the raised concrete islands in the middle of the intersections and along the channelizing line to deter motorists from ignoring the new design and driving straight through the intersection, said Chris Tuminello, ODOT project engineer.
While longer commutes and safety concerns have some worried, Fairfield Twp. Administrator Mike Rahall said motorists shouldn’t be concerned.
Fairfield Twp. police Chief Richard St. John said accidents along the bypass are not only down significantly, but it’s easier for police to respond to emergencies.
“The mere fact that police officers responding to emergencies using the bypass are no longer encountering gridlocked stopped traffic with no place to go with the narrow two-lane pavement is a significant improvement over the way things were in the past,” St. John said.