Monroe council considers safety measures following double fatal crash that killed woman, her nephew

Monroe is considering steps to make a heavily traveled state route safer after a double fatal crash occurred earlier this month at Ohio 63 and Main Street.

Two citizens expressed their safety concerns to City Council members during Tuesday night’s meeting, and City Manager Bill Brock said he has contacted the Ohio Department of Transportation about possible measures to reduce the crashes.

A fatal crash happened May 14 when a tractor-trailer and silver sedan collided. Marita Avery, 59, of Middletown, a classroom educational assistant at Crossroads Middle School, part of the Fairfield district, and her nephew, Anthony L. Mitchell, 26, were killed. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured, police said.

Since 2018, there have been 94 crashes at the intersection, including 57 non-injury, 36 injury and one fatal, according to Monroe police crash reports obtained by The Journal-News.

Brock said in 2019 an average of 26,000 vehicles per day traveled on Ohio 63, a number that dropped to 20,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic because of fewer drivers. He said 10 years ago the average was 16,000 vehicles per day.

Kimberly Birchfield, who started a petition seeking a lower speed limit for the area, said she wants “a safer flow of traffic” because she has witnessed numerous “dangerous situations” while traveling on Ohio 63 between Interstate 75 and Ohio 4.

She presented a petition with nearly 300 signatures Tuesday night to Mayor Jason Frentzel.

Margaret Wilkerson, employed by Fairfield City Schools, called Avery “a wonderful staff member” whose personality was “an absolute piece of heaven.”

Avery was driving to her Middletown residence on El Camino Drive when she was involved in the crash, Wilkerson said, adding Avery cares for her nephew who has special needs.

“She was a real life that we lost way too soon,” Wilkerson said.

Later, while speaking in the lobby, Wilkerson said the city needs to take safety measures.

“The best laws are written in blood,” she said.

ODOT said before the 50 mph speed limit could be lowered, Monroe must hire a traffic engineering firm to conduct a speed study, and even then, a change must be approved by ODOT, Brock said.

Other options include installing “prepare to stop” flashing lights or “caution” lights,” he said.

Brock said a statewide review of the flashing signs found that drivers often speed up upon seeing the flashing sign, increasing the number and severity of crashes at intersections.

ODOT has seen a reduction in crashes at 14 intersections where the signs were removed within the past two years, he said. The average crash reductions included a 23% reduction in total crashes; 35% reduction in serious crashes; 42% reduction in angle crashes; and 50% reduction in red-light running crashes.

Frentzel called those statistics “eye-opening.”

Frentzel asked residents to be patient.

“You can’t turn on a dime,” he said. “We hear citizens’ pleas for change.”

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