SUMMIT COUNTY — When a road or intersection is identified as a crash concern, area communities pay attention and try to do something about it.
"When we do a road project, we try to build in the safety features so we keep our crashes down in those areas," said Stow City Engineer Jim McCleary.
A case in point is Stow’s Darrow and Graham road intersection. It was ranked as the fifth worst in terms of crashes among 316 intersections included in the Akron Metropolitan Area Traffic Study 2015-17 report released in December. In calculating rankings, AMATS looks at multiple factors, including the average daily traffic count, the number of crashes during the three-year period, the severity of crashes and, in the case of road sections, the length of the section and the number of crashes per mile.
According to the report, the Darrow and Graham intersection had an average daily traffic volume of 42,395 vehicles and 96 crashes over the three-year period.
McCleary, however, said these rankings do not reflect an approximately $800,000 improvement project at the intersection last year, nearly $700,000 of which was paid for with Federal Highway Safety Funds through the Ohio Department of Transportation. The project included the removal of a traffic island at the intersection’s northwest corner and traffic signal improvements, as well as resurfacing and striping and other infrastructure work.
"We know it’s been helping. It’s definitely helping," said McCleary, adding that he expects this will be reflected on AMATS reports over the next few years.
"It will drop a little bit each year," he said. "The traffic study of 2019, 2020 and 2021 will show a significant drop because all three of those years will have the improvements."
Cuyahoga Falls City Engineer Tony Demasi said the city also looks at the AMATS reports to identify areas that need to be looked at.
"These are wonderful reports," said Demasi. "We’ve praised AMATS many years that they’ve released these. We’ve made significant improvements, like Howe [Avenue] and Main [Street]. That intersection project was a safety project that started with one of these reports and that was probably seven or eight years ago."
One of the more significant areas of concern in the current report for Cuyahoga Falls is the approximately quarter-mile stretch of State Road from Portage Trail to Graham Road. It ranked 19th worst on a list of 179 road segments included in the report. According to the report, it sees 21,530 vehicles on average per day and 21 crashes in the three-year period.
In addition, the Portage Trail and Second Street intersection is is tied for 18th place with the East Market Street and Goodyear Boulevard intersection in Akron with 29,830 vehicles on average daily and 61 crashes.
Demasi said he is seeking details about the nature of these crashes from AMATS, which has collected all of the crash reports.
"That will give us a sense of what kinds of improvements we can consider," he said.
Stow’s most problematic road stretch is the approximately 3,500 feet of Graham Road between Fishcreek Road and the city’s east line with Kent, an area that includes Stow-Munroe Falls High School. It ranks 18th worst on the report, with an average daily traffic count of 11,870 vehicles and 50 crashes in three years. In addition, the Graham and Fishcreek intersection is ranked No. 14, making it Stow’s second worst intersection with 28,155 vehicles and 55 crashes.
McCleary said the good news about this is that it could help the city receive grant funding from ODOT and/or AMATS, as it did with the Darrow and Graham intersection project.
"The city’s been working diligently," he said. "We’ve done a couple of [preliminary] engineering studies on improvements and we’re applying for grants. We came real close last year, getting a grant. We were next on the list in 2017 to get a project down there. Right now, we are applying for grants in 2019 to improve safety through the corridor and intersection."
Tied for 32nd among intersections with the Route 14 and Mondial Parkway intersection in Streetsboro is Tallmadge Circle, with 34,800 vehicles averaged per day and 256 crashes. However, this is an improvement compared to previous years, when the circle was ranked 29th on the AMATS report for years 2014-16. Police Chief Ron Williams added that the severity of crashes tended to be low.
"Very high-accident intersection, a lot of numbers, a lot of crashes, most of them assured clear distance fender bender type of thing," said Williams.
However, a concern that does not immediately jump out, said Williams, is the roundabout where Northeast Avenue, East Howe Road and North Munroe Road come together to the northeast of Tallmadge Circle. It is ranked 57th among intersections with 16,720 vehicles per day and 49 crashes, but this a sharp increase in the ranking from previous years. It was 90th on the 2013-15 report and 81st on the 2014-16 report.
"That has actually jumped up the chart a bit, and we’ll be doing a study this year, taking a look at that," he said. "And we’ve had some discussions with the city about possibly re-engineering that roundabout."
The annual AMATS report ranked areas of Summit, Portage and Wayne counties using crash data compiled over a three-year period from the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to Dave Pulay, a transportation engineer with AMATS.
Crash rates were based on average daily traffic volume, the severity index — the ratio of fatal and injury crashes compared to total crashes — and a composite score based on the data, Pulay said.
"The crashes are studied over a three-year period, and each year we add a year and delete a year," he said.
According to the AMATS report, overall crashes involving fatalities and bicycle-related crashes have increased while pedestrian-related crashes and injuries declined over the three-year period. Crashes involving fatalities have increased from 46 to 51 over three years. The same data show bicycle-related crashes increased from 77 to 90 over the period and pedestrian-related crashes with injuries decreased from 154 to 131.
However, from 2015 to 2017, the total number of crashes is down slightly, from 18,802 to 18,787.
The Traffic Crash Report 2015-17 can be found on the AMATS website at http://amatsplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/Attachment-5B-Traffic-Crashes-2015-2017-1.pdf.
The study is released in the hopes that local governments can make any needed improvements if safety funds became available, Pulay said.
Pulay also hopes drivers will look at the list so they can become aware of the listed roadways and use added caution when traveling on them.
And while infrastructure improvements can be made to roadways, it all comes down to those behind the wheel, Pulay said.
"There are a whole lot of crashes just due to carelessness," Pulay said. "Distracted driving is a big issue, as is driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances. I just think there has been kind of a general lack of respect while driving."
Reporter Tim Troglen contributed to this story.
Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, or email@example.com.