Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – A joint effort between the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Circleville city officials has resulted in at least a small speed reduction through the business district of U.S. Route 23.
According to Lt. Steven Herron, Circleville Post commander of the OSHP, the speed limit is now 55 miles per hour from DuPont Road south of the city to just south of the Island Road overpass to the north.
The remainder of U.S. Route 23, excluding the village limits of South Bloomfield, will remain at the posted 60 miles per hour following the change.
“We wanted it to be lower because of the amount of crashes and the two pedestrians that were struck and killed in 2014,” Herron said. “It’s only five miles per hour, but we’re happy for any type of reduction there. Hopefully it will stick out to motorists that they need to slow down because they’re coming into a more intensive area.”
For years, local law enforcement officials have argued even a 55 mph speed limit through that area was far too high for the number of businesses and intersections, as well as the sheer volume of traffic that travels through it on any given day.
Despite their attempts, though, the speed limit was actually raised by state law to 60 mph in the fall of 2013.
“We never understood why they raised it to begin with, so we’re happy with any reduction at this point,” said Sheriff Robert Radcliff, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office. “Sixty is just too fast.”
In addition to vehicle crashes in the year after the increase, two pedestrians were struck and killed in the 60 mph business district: Larry Shoemo, 54, was killed in May of 2014, and Evan Palmer, 21, was killed in December of 2014. Both were crossing Route 23 from Court Street on their way to work at businesses on the west side of the highway.
“ODOT had done speed studies there before,” Radcliff said. “Mayor Don McIlroy, the Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Patrol had approached them before, but each time they came back and said it didn’t call for a reduction. After we had all those fatality accidents, we approached them again. It was a group effort, we all had input, we all asked, and the state was responsive to our requests and listened to us.”
Though he would like to see the speed limit reduced even more, Radcliff said he is pleased with the progress made so far.
“The state has been responsive to our requests and concerns and looked at the problems we had there to make adjustments,” Radcliff said. “We would like it to be slower, but it’s an improvement and the result of people working together to achieve something that benefits us all.”
In addition to the speed reduction, Herron said he believes the connector project from Court Street to Route 23 near Taco Bell slated for construction this year also will improve safety in the area.
“At this point, our goal is to raise educational awareness and try to have more of a presence down there,” Herron said. “We will usually give motorists a grace period to get used to the new speed limit and then start in on enforcement.”
Herron said the change in the speed zone process is outlined in section 1203 of the Traffic Engineering Manual and involves studying the geometric and traffic characteristics of the roadway – what the road looks like and how cars are currently driving it.
The study includes:
- Highway Development – review residential and commercial development as well as the number of signalized and unsignalized intersections
- Roadway Features – including lane width, shoulder width, and crash rate
- Speed Data – gather data at ½ to ¾ mile intervals on how vehicles are currently driving, this factor encourages public compliance, reduces speed differences among drivers, and offers a defensible enforcement tool.
- 85th percentile speed – The speed at which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling at or below
- Pace – the 10 mph range of speeds containing the greatest number of observed speeds
- Characteristics – assess the horizontal and vertical alignment and roadside obstructions that limit sight distance
Other factors such as truck volumes and having the look/feel of an incorporated area were also taken into consideration
The results of the study recommended reducing the speed limit to 55 mph, Herron said. ODOT performed the study, and both the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office concurred with the results.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal