By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Police continue to monitor the traffic and pedestrian safety situation at the Wirt Road and Main Street intersection.
Parents of students who attend Groveport Elementary and Middle School Central are concerned about pedestrian safety at that intersection as well as at the intersection of Main and Front streets in downtown Groveport. Parents note near misses at the Wirt and Main intersection where they say several students and a teacher were almost hit by vehicles.
They also allege there are instances of cars running the red light at the Main and Front streets intersection.
Contributing to the safety issues is the unique shape of the Wirt and Main intersection that is believed to create driver visibility problems as Wirt Road connects with Main Street at about a 40 degree angle.
“It’s a very congested area,” said Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams of the Main Street school zone.
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 a building on the southwest corner of the intersection that makes it difficult for drivers on Wirt Road to see traffic on Main Street.
Adams conducted an evaluation of the Main Street school zone area from April 12-14 during the morning and afternoon hours. He said some of the citizen concerns were observed during the patrol time, but he added, “Some citizens’ concerns have not been observed or witnessed by the officers.”
Adams believes some issues could be resolved by Groveport Madison Schools’ staff through communication and proper assignment of staff members in the drop off zones and pick up areas of the schools. He said other issues could be addressed by city legislation and police enforcement action.
Adams made these observations regarding school staff and the student safety patrol at the intersections: the teacher who supervises the Wirt Road crosswalk did not always watch the student safety patrol as it guarded the crosswalk; on one of the days the student safety patrol did not wear reflective clothing or material to identify themselves as crossing guards; the student safety patrol at times turned its back to traffic and did not clearly show their stop signs; and some student safety patrol members were distracted and playing.
Groveport Elementary Principal April Bray has stated, “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. 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 and that safety patrol students wear a vest and have a large stop sign “so they are clearly visible to the drivers.”
Adams said the drop off and pick up aprons in front of the schools can hold up to eight vehicles, but traffic gets backed up on Main Street by the aprons as drivers wait to get into position. He said some parents leave their cars parked on the apron to walk their children to the school, which further adds to the back up. Because of the back up, some parents let their kids out on Main Street to walk between the parked cars in the apron. Additionally some drivers make u-turns from the drop off pick up apron and other drivers park in the Ace Hardware parking lot and walk their kids to school across Main Street without using the crosswalks. He said traffic further backs up on Main Street when drivers stop to allow other drivers to make left turns during the congested school zone hours.
“We’ve got more parents driving their kids to school rather than having them ride the bus these days,” observed Groveport City Councilwoman Becky Hutson.
Councilman Ed Dildine floated the idea of moving the Wirt Road crosswalk further north to avoid having vehicles creep into the crosswalk in order to see Main Street traffic.
Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert took the idea further by suggesting the Wirt Road crosswalk be extended from the Main Street sidewalk directly to the sidewalk by the drop off pick up aprons in front of the schools. However, Groveport City Engineer Steve Farst said that would make the crosswalk “extremely long” and could cause other complications.
Groveport Public Service Director Brian Strayer previously said all traffic signs along Main Street were replaced in 2021, including school zone signs.
“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, council approved installing no u-turn signage in the area as well. Signage must be compliant with the Ohio Revised Code.
Farst noted that eliminating left turns from Wirt to Main and Main to Wirt would have to be studied carefully because its consequences could cause traffic problems elsewhere as drivers try to find a way around such a restriction at other intersections.