Deceleration lanes and more street signs are part of a short-term solution.
BOARDMAN -- Everyone knows that the best way to avoid congestion along busy U.S. Route 224 is to stay off the road as much as possible.
That's an approach an increasing number of drivers have taken in recent years by using alternative routes that take them around the busiest stretches of the road.
The problem: There has been an increase in the number of vehicular accidents during that time close to where Route 224 and those alternative routes meet.
Bill Barlow, project manager for the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, spoke to township trustees this week and presented a drawing that depicted the main roads in the township.
The drawing showed the two roads with the greatest traffic volume (Route 224 and Market Street) and pinpointed the sites along the Route 224 corridor that had the highest number of accidents, based on three years of data collection.
Studying the problem
Barlow is helping to head a study that is looking at traffic flow problems and accidents as well as the most commonly used cut-through routes drivers use to circumvent the heavy traffic.
URS Consultants Inc. of Akron was hired to conduct the study, which began last November and focuses on a seven-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between state Route 11 in Canfield and Interstate 680 in Boardman.
Barlow also outlined short-term solutions and ideas designed to ease the congestion, largely the result of residential and commercial growth in the two townships.
Many accidents occur near Market Street and Route 224 close to the Southern Park Mall, one of the busiest intersections in the state. A large number of accidents on and near Route 224 are the result of drivers who attempt to make a left turn from the center lane and misjudge the amount of time they have to safely make the turn, Barlow noted.
Even though many of the traffic signals were synchronized within the past 10 years, the equipment in some of the traffic boxes is beginning to malfunction partly because of age, he said. A plan is under way to rebuild some traffic controllers in 2007, Barlow noted.
In the meantime, several ideas to address the traffic problems are being tried. The Ohio Department of Transportation has installed 30- to 40-foot-long deceleration lanes in some high-volume areas; the lanes are set up to allow drivers to make a right turn into a business, which reduces the number of vehicles on the main part of the road.
Many business addresses are difficult to see, and some drivers along Route 224 slow down to look for an address, which can create traffic problems. Another solution being proposed is displaying more overhead signs that alert motorists to the name of the cross street and which block range is coming up, Barlow said.
Barlow said the study also is looking at issues brought up by neighborhood, government and business groups and trying to come up with additional solutions based on their concerns.
He stressed that any short- or long-term solution to the Route 224 traffic woes must rely heavily on public opinion.
"The main focus is to get the public involved so [people] know what's going on in implementing solutions," he said.