The Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of New Carlisle held a public forum last Wednesday regarding the proposed turn lanes at Main and Jefferson. The meeting was held at the Fire House, and the bay was filled with area residents who came either to hear what was going on, or to offer comments.
The proposal has drawn criticism from many residents and from downtown businesses because it would mean the loss of up to 30 parking spaces.
The proposal was an option included with the new traffic signals at the corner. Since it is being paid for with Federal funds, options were required, and a public forum was required to get public input on the options.
ODOT representatives gave a brief presentation on the proposal, but there was little mention of how many parking spaces would be lost.
The new signals would have LED lights, which require less maintenance and are more energy efficient. The posts would also be moved back. The current posts are very close to the intersection and are often struck by turning trucks.
The forum was then opened for public comments.
Ted Daniels, a downtown property owner, asked if there was a study on how long it takes to get through town. City Public Service Director Howard Kitko said that there was no study. Daniels then asked if there was any data on an increase of crashes. ODOT’s Craig Eley said that there have been 17 crashes at the intersection of Main and Jefferson in the past 17 years, but could not identify how many of those crashes were caused by vehicles trying to turn left.
Daniels then asked why we are looking at this. Eley said that quite often traffic backs up, and a turn lane would help alleviate the congestion.
Daniels then accused ODOT of “putting the cart before the horse,” and said that ODOT does not have its ducks in a row.
ODOT’s Tricia Bishop then stated that the current lights are very high maintenance, that cables have to be tightened periodically and that the current lights are energy inefficient.
Resident Bill Cook asked about the possibility of putting up “No Left Turn” signs.
Eley replied that the state cannot send traffic down city streets. Traffic would have to be rerouted down Route 40 or Route 201, which would cause a drop in traffic through town.
“Less traffic would mean fewer people seeing the downtown businesses,” said Eley.
Carol Pierce, a downtown business owner, asked about reprogramming the light similar to the operation of the light in Medway. That light is only green for one direction at a time.
Bishop stated that if the operation of the light was changed, the intersection would have to be altered to fall under Federal guidelines. That would include moving the stop bar back further and would mean the loss of parking spaces.
Luke Putterbaugh asked if the city could pay to change the light operation after the new lights were installed.
Bishop said that Federal projects have a life of 20 years. If changes were made within that time, ODOT would still have to make the intersection meet Federal guidelines.
The deadline for comments on the proposal is July 17, and no decision on the proposal can be made before then. The decision will be made solely on public comments.