By Rick Palsgrove
Parents of students who attend Groveport Elementary and Middle School Central are concerned about pedestrian safety at the intersection of Wirt Road and Main Street in downtown Groveport.
The busy intersection’s unique shape is believed to contribute to a driver visibility problem as Wirt Road connects with Main Street at about a 40 degree angle.
Parents note near misses at the intersection where they say several school children and a teacher have almost been hit by vehicles. They also allege there are instances of cars running the red light at the nearby intersection of Main and Front streets while children are in that cross walk.
“There have been zero instances where a student has been struck, thank goodness,” said Groveport Elementary Principal April Bray. “However, there have been several instances where parents have reported to me that they either saw a child nearly get hit or their own child has been almost hit.”
Speaking at Groveport City Council’s April 11 meeting, resident Diane Holbrook said she witnessed three kids almost get hit by cars at the Wirt and Main intersection.
“Cars are stopping in the crosswalk just inches from the kids,” said Holbrook.
Holbrook said more police presence, better school zone signage and markings, and “no left turn” restrictions from Wirt to Main and from Main to Wirt are needed.
“Drivers are gunning their engines to beat traffic when they are turning left,” said Holbrook.
“I think the traffic on Main Street has increased over the last several years and it is too busy to have left turns from Wirt Road,” said Bray in an interview. “I also think many drivers are using Wirt Road as a shortcut to get to work and they are not paying attention. They are rushing and not following the speed limit, which is making it unsafe for not just our students and staff, but everyone.”
At a January city council meeting, resident James Chilton asked city officials to review the traffic situation at Main and Front streets where he said parked cars make the street “really tight and kind of scary,” especially on left hand turns.
Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams said his department strives to have an officer by the Main Street schools to monitor traffic when school opens and closes each day, but with two to four officers on duty per shift it is not always possible to have an officer there as officers may be needed for other high priority calls elsewhere in the city.
“We try to the best of our abilities to have an officer in the school zones,” said Adams, who added when police are available an effective method of controlling traffic is to have a police cruiser sit in the center lane on Main Street with its lights flashing.
He said the Groveport Police get nearly 40 percent of their calls for an officer between 6-10 a.m. and 2-5 p.m., which can pull officers away from the schools. He added there are four school zones within the city of Groveport with each having its own traffic and pedestrian issues, including Groveport Elementary, Middle School Central, Middle School South, Glendening Elementary, Groveport Madison High School, Eastland Career Center, and Madison Christian School. He said traffic accidents are more frequent at the high school and Eastland Career Center on South Hamilton Road.
In checking police records regarding accidents near the Main and Wirt intersection, Adams said there has been one accident in that area since August and only five accidents in three years there, none of which occurred during school zone hours.
“Accidents there are not frequent,” said Adams. “The one accident since August was on Feb. 9 around 7:30 a.m., before school started, where a vehicle traveling westbound on Main Street was involved in an assured clear distance accident.”
Adams said there are close calls when people park in the parking lot by Ace Hardware and then walk across Main Street near the schools without using the crosswalks.
Intersections and traffic
Adams said the angular configuration of the Main and Wirt intersection causes drivers on Wirt Road to inch out into the crosswalk so they can see oncoming Main Street traffic. He said parked cars on Main Street can block these drivers’ views as well. There is also a building on the southwest corner of the intersection that makes it difficult for drivers on Wirt Road to see oncoming traffic on Main Street.
Adams said there are not many incidents of speeding on downtown Main Street in the area in question. He also said speeding on Wirt Road tends to occur more often for vehicles heading south out of town. He said there are electronic speed monitoring signs positioned at Wirt Road and Cherry Street and at Wirt Road and College Street to alert drivers to their speed. He said city officials also spoke about installing cameras at intersections to evaluate traffic flow as well as road conditions during bad weather.
One reason Adams gave for the higher traffic volume these days on Wirt Road is the increasing commercial and residential development in the area. He said that often, if there is an accident on U.S. Route 33, drivers will bail out and cut through Groveport to avoid the traffic jam on U.S. 33.
He does not believe the construction of the new Rarey’s Port building on Main Street has added to traffic issues in the area stating there have been few road closures due to the construction.
Student Safety Patrol
Adams said the Groveport Elementary student Safety Patrol stationed at the
Wirt and Main and Main and Front intersections “does a great job.” He said it is also important for pedestrians to maintain their visibility and to look both ways multiple times before crossing a street.
“Safety Patrol students are supervised by an adult and they are responsible for using their stop sign to stand in the middle of the street to safely cross students,” said Bray. “The cars are supposed to stop at the light or stop sign. The Safety Patrol isn’t trying to stop cars when there is a green light. Students are in the fifth grade between the ages of 10 to 12 and are selected for being safety conscious and responsible students by our Safety Patrol Advisor.”
Bray said students are always accompanied by an adult when they are crossing at the intersections. Safety Patrol students wear a vest and have a large stop sign so they are clearly visible to the drivers.
“Groveport Police have been asked to be available during the busy time of dropoff and pickup to just be visible,” said Bray.
For safety’s sake, Adams said drivers and pedestrians must, “Practice patience.”
Why Wirt connects to Main at an angle
Wirt Road was created after the Ohio and Erie Canal ceased operations in the early 20th century. The canal came through Groveport at an angle from the northeast to the southwest. When the canal was abandoned, buildings were built on Main Street west of the canal route. Wirt Road sits where the canal towpath ran along side the canal and, because of this, the road maintains the same angle junction with Main Street as the canal route once did.
City officials once considered redesigning the angled intersection of Main and Wirt. The proposal was to close Wirt at Main and instead create a right angle intersection of Wirt Road and Front Street. However, the idea was dropped for various reasons.
“As of now, there are not plans for a redesign of the intersection,” said Groveport City Administrator B.J. King. “We are having discussions about the short-term and long-term fixes for this unique intersection.”
Even if the redesign had been pursued, Adams said, “It might not have fixed the problem because it would bring the road and vehicles too close to existing buildings.”
Traffic volume and signage
Groveport City Engineer Steve Farst said traffic volumes at the Wirt Road intersection for a weekday were collected in Sept 2018 with school in session.
“Traffic volumes were greatly diminished from 2020-22 due to impact from COVID and it is still believed there is some impact, although it is bouncing back some,” said Farst. “We believe the values we collected in 2018 are still representative at this time.”
Farst said on Wirt Road, southwest of the Main Street intersection, the average daily traffic volume (24-hour total) is about 3,325 (in both directions). At the Main Street and Wirt Road intersection, the average daily traffic volume (24-hour total) passing through the intersection, all directions is about 13,400. At Front and Main, Front Street north of the intersection, the average daily traffic volume is about 1,130. At the Main and Front intersection, the average daily traffic volume (24-hour total) passing through the intersection, all directions is about 11,200.
Groveport Public Service Director Brian Strayer said replaced all traffic signs along Main Street were replaced in 2021, including school zone signs. Staff consolidated and eliminated excessive signs to bring more attention to the signage in place.
“This year, replacement of all traffic signs along Wirt Road in this area are in progress,” said Strayer. “The new signs have a greater retro-reflectivity rating than the old deteriorated signs, improving visibility.”
City officials plan to add a highly visible school zone sign at the intersection of Cron Drive and Wirt Road.
City officials said a flashing school zone sign on Main Street that was damaged will be replaced, but most likely will not be in place until next school year. Also, plans are to install no U-turn signage in the area as well. Farst said signage must be compliant with the Ohio Revised Code.
Farst noted that eliminating left turns from Wirt to Main and Main to Wirt should be studied carefully because its consequences could cause traffic problems elsewhere in the area as drivers try to find a way around such a restriction at other intersections.
“We will continue to discuss what actions could be taken to improve safety,” said King.