VERSAILLES - One mother is on a mission to protect pedestrians, many of them children, from what she considers a dangerous intersection.
The question of whether or not a traffic light is warranted was put before the Village of Versailles council recently as the local mom asked the village to install a traffic light at the intersection of Center Street and State Route 185 near a library, nursing home and school to help slow down traffic.
“This is a very dangerous intersection, the main walking entrance to the school, the entrance to the library, and is used by many people to get across town. The worst [traffic] is after school about 3 p.m. It gets backed up,” said the mom, Versailles resident Stacy Dirksen. “I’ve been in the traffic jams after school walking, and I’ve been driving in it also.”
She added that while her son isn’t in school yet, they walk in the area to the library and school playground, and because she lives two houses away from the intersection, she sees others having problems, and it is common knowledge that people speed there.
“The thing that prompted me [to bring the issue before council] was when my son was almost hit. He was standing in front of the car as it screeched to a stop,” Dirksen said.
“The village moved very quickly. I’m very impressed with that,” she said of the village processing her request.
The area in question is at the intersection of Elmwood and Center Streets. The primary road is Center Street in the village and State Route 185 outside of the village. It has a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit during school hours and in town it’s 35 miles per hour at other times.
“Two traffic guards have almost been hit while directing traffic in the intersection. Parents will not allow their children to take this “safe route” to school because it is too dangerous,” she said. “I am afraid that something tragic will happen before ODOT agrees to issue a permit to have the light installed. I really hope that is not the case. Our village needs all the support we can get to convince the state this stop light is needed to keep our kids safe!”
Versailles Village Administrator Rodd Hale explained that a traffic light would be at the intersection all the time, not just during school hours. The village could pay $150,000 to $170,000 for a typical traffic signal with red, yellow and green lights. He also said the village and school evaluated the situation when the school was built four years ago. A resident who lives nearby told him that drivers may also try to avoid the light by traveling in the residential areas around the school.
The school zone intersections have crosswalks and sidewalks. There are two flashing lights warning drivers for the school zone’s 20-miles-an-hour speed limit during morning drop offs and afternoon pick ups of students. One flashing light is at Marker Road and State Route 121 N., and another is at S. Center Street (State Route 185) and Stevenson Drive.
Hale said the village is working with Choice One Engineering of Sydney to perform a traffic study. The traffic counts are expected to start this week at Center and Elmwood Streets. The analysis could take two to three weeks, making it a month-long process, according to Choice One.
“This is not a decision the village gets to make, because it’s a state route and the decision is held with ODOT [the Ohio Department of Transportation],” Hale said. “The village’s role is to do a traffic study, appeal or request.
“We are not in any way against the signal, we are letting the state figure out what’s warranted. Safety first,” he said.
Versailles Police Chief Mark Humphreys said the police department works traffic every day.
“It could be backed up because when school lets out there’s already a traffic jam,” Humphreys said.
The chief added that police have always wanted a full traffic light at Elmwood and Center Streets, but was told by the state that it wasn’t warranted. Some students who drive to and from the school also drive in the residential area, and he receives complaints about that.
Mandi Dillon, public information officer for ODOT District 7, explained that the intersection was reviewed. During the review, it was found that the speed limit is 35 miles per hour on Center Street, the crosswalk is within an existing 20-miles-per-hour school zone equipped with flashers, it has proper school signage, marked crosswalks and street lights on Center Street, she said.
“This section of Center Street was improved by the Safe Routes to School program in 2011, and the school/pedestrian crossing was improved to meet current design standards. These types of treatments are very common at similar crossings in villages throughout the state,” Dillon said.
“As mentioned above, this intersection is within the Village of Versailles, therefore improvements such as the installation of a traffic signal would be studied, installed, and maintained by the Village,” Dillon said. “ODOT’s involvement would be limited to reviewing the study for the traffic signal and issuing a permit to the Village if traffic signal warrants are met.”
Dillon said that traffic signals are installed based upon a traffic engineering study that includes traffic signal warrants as published in the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (OMUTCD). An engineering study must be performed by the Village of Versailles to determine if this location warrants a traffic signal. This study will examine traffic conditions as well as pedestrian and physical characteristics of the intersection.
Versailles Schools Superintendent Aaron Moran said the school participates in the ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program requiring crossing guards to help kids cross the street before and after school at the intersections.
“Our jurisdiction doesn’t reach out that far, but we want the kids to be safe and that’s why we put crossing guards out there,” Moran said. “We want our kids safe and we’ll trust the village and ODOT to keep our kids safe.”