The state is working on preliminary plans for an $11 million “superstreet” on U.S. Route 35 in Greene County – a measure described as a less expensive alternative to reduce traffic crashes and congestion.
Superstreets prevent drivers from turning left or traveling straight ahead from side streets thorough an intersection with a larger road. Instead, drivers must turn right and travel a short distance before making a U-turn to access those roads.
“They work well,” said Keith Smith, an Ohio Department of Transportation environmental engineer. “… It keeps everybody moving.”
The maneuver reduces the amount of time it takes to get through intersections and side streets, according to Smith. Also, the amount of traffic that is moved through the intersection is increased, he added.
With the proposed new superstreet redesign, drivers traveling north on Factory Road or Orchard Lane would not be able to turn left on Route 35. They would turn right and drive a short distance before making a U-turn on Route 35 to travel west or to continue on Factory Road or Orchard Lane.
“I think it would help us to keep the trucks moving so they wouldn’t have to stop quickly,” said Brian Martin, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission executive director. “… The elimination of left turns at the intersection would be a big improvement.”
Over the years, the current design on Route 35 has outgrown itself, according to local officials, and a more modern design is needed.
“The urgency to improve U.S. 35 through Greene County is real and needs to be accomplished as soon as possible,” said Mike Cornell, the Beavercreek city manager. “The city of Beavercreek remains receptive to evaluating all solutions to achieve improved safety and circulation.”
The planned temporary fix for Route 35 comes six years after MVRPC and local leaders started annually applying for funding through the ODOT Transportation Advisory Council for a highway redesign that included removing three traffic lights along a 1.7-mile stretch between Factory and Trebein roads. Last month, a draft list of TRAC projects the council plans to fund this year confirmed the more extensive project had been rejected once again.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get the amount that we were seeking,” Martin said. “But I realize funding is scarce and hard to come by; $120 million is quite a bit, and we’re competing against projects all across the state.”
Greene County requested $32 million for the Route 35 project in 2015. The projected total cost of that project would be around $120 million.
TRAC received 25 applications for funding in 2015 which totaled $634 million, said Matt Bruning, a ODOT spokesman. Of that number, TRAC has selected seven projects that total $54 million.
“It’s not uncommon for our applications to come in much higher than what we recommend for funding,” Bruning said.
The rejection marks the sixth time TRAC has declined to fund the project. According to ODOT records, local leaders have sought funding for the U.S. Route 35 highway redesign as far back as 2010.
Plans for the project were initiated after MVRPC completed a study on Route 35 in Greene County in 2004 that looked issues that included roadway access, traffic safety and economic development.
Bob Doyle, a Beavercreek resident and a former state representative who is now a lobbyist, said something needs to be done to address traffic issues in the area.
Doyle, who used to represent the now defunct Route 35 Business Coalition — a group of 37 or so businesses including the car dealerships — said the businesses were not opposed to the road redesign project, but they wanted to make sure the highway improvements wouldn’t have a negative financial effect on them.
“My feeling all along was something needed to be done with Factory Road,” Doyle said. “Orchard could have wider turn lanes. And synchronize the traffic lights so you don’t have such a long wait.”
Doyle also noted that the design will need to address problems with traffic congestion triggered by soccer tournaments in the area.
“We have a tremendous Ankeney soccer complex on Yellow Brick Road, which runs parallel to Route 35,” he said. “All that traffic comes this way … We want to make sure the traffic flows.”