This Hamilton traffic headache has a major fix coming

One of Hamilton’s major highway crossroads — the area where Main Street meets with Millville and Eaton Avenues — will be reconfigured this year to improve traffic flow and safety.

The highway construction will convert an area, where there now is a tangle of intersections at sharp angles close together, into one intersection where the streets meet at 90-degree angles, which will make for less confusion for drivers.

The last time officials conducted a safety check of the intersection, they found that 50 crashes occurred in the area from 2008-2010, which Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Cunningham noted is nearly a decade old. Given that the project is moving ahead, ODOT does not feel the need to update the statistic that qualified the project for state safety-program funding, unless the project’s cost unexpectedly skyrockets, Cunningham said.

Of the 50 crashes, 10 involved vehicles that were turning left, while 27 crashes were caused by vehicles hitting others from behind. Within a 0.3-mile segment of the area, there were 80 crashes.

The 50 wrecks during the period ranked the area among Ohio’s “Top 100 Non-Freeway Fatal and Serious Injury Locations” at the time.

Both those factors are “why we were successful in getting an ODOT safety grant for that project,” said Rich Engle, the city’s public works director and engineer. “They looked at the complexity of it and decided that, yes, that would end the number of crashes that had occurred there over the years.”

High and Main streets both become crowded with traffic through town, especially during rush hours. When the work on the Main-Milllville-Eaton project is finished, “it’s going to be an improvement” for traffic flow, Engle said. “I don’t know that I can put words to (illustrate) that.”

Under the safety program, ODOT will pay 90 percent of the costs, with the city funding the other 10 percent.

“The city’s paying 10 percent on a $3 million project,” Engle said. “That’s how the safety funding typically works,” as it did recently at the intersection of High Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. That project improved traffic flow there.

The project, estimated to cost between $3 million and $3.2 million including engineering and construction, is expected to break ground in June with work taking 18 months.

The Main-Millville-Eaton project will be advertised for bids, with bids likely awarded in March, Engle said.

As part of the project, the number of lanes on westbound Main Street will grow, with one through lane that continues onto Main, as well as a left-turn lane onto Millville and a right-turn lane onto Eaton Avenue.

Traffic along the Main-High corridor has been so severe that the city last year worked to optimize signals along the route to give more priority to cross-town vehicles on that thoroughfare.

Meanwhile, the under-construction South Hamilton Crossing, which will link Ohio 4 with the Miami University Hamilton campus and the West Side, should be completed around August, Engle said. That should alleviate traffic snags along High and Main by giving drivers a second alternative east-west route that does not get backed up by trains on the CSX tracks. High Street traffic goes beneath the tracks, while South Hamilton Crossing will pass over it.

Also in the plans for Main Street improvement is the area further to the west, where Main intersects with Cereal and Haldimand avenues, as well as McKinley and Western avenues. City officials hope that construction work will begin in 2020.

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