Friday, December 12, 2003

Crash stats show roads to avoid


Accident-prone spots to get attention

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The first few miles of Bridgetown Road in Green Township is one of the most accident-prone stretches of highway in Southwest Ohio, according to a study released Thursday by area transportation planners.

That part of Bridgetown Road is among six short lengths of state or federal highways that had the highest accident rates in the region, according to the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. Bridgetown (Ohio 264) is the most urban stretch of the six.

The report is the first time the region can see a snapshot of its most accident-prone highways.

"Safety is and will be a major way that funding is going to be done and determined in the future," said Mark Policinski, executive director of the council of governments. "Now we can build safety into our modeling process, and the region should benefit greatly."

The new six-year transportation-funding bill that Congress is set to take up early next year will focus heavily on safety improvements to roadways.

The data looked at all reported accidents on state and federal highways and interstates in Hamilton, Warren, Butler and Clermont counties in 2000-2002 and compared those numbers with traffic rates, calculating accidents per 1 million vehicle miles traveled.

Officials cautioned that the data is preliminary - it does not include stretches of the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway or Interstate 275, for example. Officials did not yet have the data. No numeric rates for each stretch of highway were available, and neither was the full data behind the rankings.

The study did not break out accidents involving fatalities or injuries, and did not include statistics from Northern Kentucky, which could take well into next year to finish.

But according to the preliminary report, six stretches of highway rated more than seven accidents per 1 million vehicle-miles (a measure of one vehicle traveling one mile on that particular stretch). Besides Bridgetown Road, the five highways with the highest rates were:

• A portion of Ohio 126 in Butler County.

• A short stretch of U.S. 42 just north of Interstate 71 in Warren County.

• A length of Ohio 123 that crosses Interstate 75 in Warren County.

• A stretch of Ohio 350 in Warren County.

• The stretch of Ohio 743 that crosses Ohio 756 in southern Clermont County.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Transportation, which provided much of the data for the study, say they look at accident statistics when determining which roads should be fixed.

And Jay Hamilton, the transportation department's regional traffic planning engineer, said the agency was already planning to fix the intersection of Bridgetown Road and Glenway Avenue/Race Road at a cost of $650,000 in 2007. The project will include new turn lanes.

That's not soon enough for Green Township Administrator Kevin Celarek.

"This is a problem that needs to be fixed soon, and we want to continue to work toward fixing this," Celarek said. "We feel 2007 is too long to wait."

Many of the accidents are non-life-threatening, and most are rear-enders, Celarek said. But he stressed that they are still a serious concern.

"Calling these fender-benders makes too light of the situation," Celarek said.

The study also identified "hot spots," or areas where there was a high number of accidents, without considering traffic frequency. The highest number appeared to be the intersection of I-75 with the Norwood Lateral (Ohio 562). In fact, I-75 had many such hot spots, and had several stretches with the second-highest accident rate, considering traffic frequency.

Safety is a major reason the state Transportation Department is planning to renovate I-75, getting $350 million in initial money Tuesday from the state's highway funding committee.

The department has previously said the stretch of I-75 north of the Ohio River to I-275 has the second-highest accident rate among Ohio interstates, after only Interstate 70/71 in Columbus.

It has gotten so hairy that retired schoolteacher John Clutterham won't even use the highway when he drives from Fairfield to downtown.

"It's a safety and traffic concern for me," Clutterham said. "I just go around it. It has gotten too bad for me, that's for sure."

E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com




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