By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER -- It appears the Ohio Department of Transportation has finally heard the community's message -- the village needs a traffic light at the busy intersection of state routes 66/119 and Bensman Road.
Village Administrator Don Harrod told Minster councilors Tuesday night ODOT has agreed to placement of a traffic light there if the village picks up the entire design and construction tab.
This would involve installation of turn lanes on state Route 119 and Bensman Road, with the exception of the top 3 inches of asphalt, which ODOT will provide. The tab also includes purchase, installation and maintenance of the traffic lights.
"Basically, we have to pick up the cost, and they will issue a permit for the traffic light," Harrod said. "Getting a light out there has been an issue for a long time."
Village officials submitted requests in 2003 and earlier this spring, both of which were turned down because ODOT warrants or requirements were not satisfied. The latest traffic count on May 10 indicated more than 9,300 vehicles passed through the intersection during an eight-hour period from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The numbers showed a dramatic increase from a previous count conducted in June 2003.
The application also included information regarding accidents at the site, including a fatal crash that claimed the life of a Minster woman on May 11. Her car was struck by a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign.
ODOT subsequently labeled the crashes there as low incidence, adding there have been six in a period ranging from Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2005.
"The recent fatal crash appears to be alcohol and/or drug related in which the at-fault driver ran the posted stop sign," ODOT traffic engineer Craig Eley wrote in the letter village officials received Sept. 1. "The installation of a traffic signal at this location may reduce crash severity, but increase the overall crash frequency."
Based on the addition of right turn lanes on both approaches of state Route 119 and Bensman Road, Eley said a permit would be issued once the work is completed. He added the turn lanes would ensure the safest and most efficient operation of the signal while providing as little undue delay to state Route 66 traffic as possible.
There is a left turn lane already on state Route 66 for traffic wishing to turn onto state Route 119.
Harrod credited persistence on behalf of area residents and the assistance of State Sen. Jim Jordan in stressing the need to highway department officials.
"This has been a major focal point for people living in the area," he added. "They were quite vocal, and ODOT stepped up to the plate as well."
Design work must come first and councilors joked aloud whether Choice One Engineering, Sidney, would donate its services. Company representative Brian Barhorst smiled but said nothing.
Harrod is not sure how much the project will cost as this point. While expediency is a prime concern, he added one problem may be the approach of winter. If poles or crossarms for the lights were ordered today, the anticipated delivery could be 10 to 12 weeks.
"I would like to see the light up here right now," he added. "But it might not happen before winter."