By Dedra Cordle
At a recent Jackson Township board of trustees meeting, several residents who live on Hibbs Road were in attendance to bring forth a number of safety issues they say have been plaguing their community.
Among the most egregious things they said they have seen is semi-trucks traveling through their residential road, posing a real danger to the people who live in the area and the motorists who are sharing the roadway.
Making the issue even more precarious, said resident Noreen Hartmann, is the fact that the legal speed limit on Hibbs Road is 40 miles per hour. She said at that speed, it makes it seem as if the semi-trucks are barreling down the narrow road that features several sharp turns.
“It is so dangerous,” she told the trustees.
According to Hartmann, she reached out to a number of county and state agencies to see if they could fix the problem by posting additional ‘no thru-truck’ signs on the neighboring state routes or even reduce the speed limit altogether. She said she did not receive much guidance to quell her concerns.
“Something is going to happen (with all of the trucks using Hibbs Road) and I am so frustrated because no one that I’ve talked to wants to say they’re responsible for the safety on the road.”
The trustees said they were unaware of the issue and vowed to take action.
Shortly after that meeting in September, chairman Dave Burris said they reached out to the county engineer’s office to request a speed study for Hibbs Road. He said although they knew that it would not stop some motorists from speeding should it be reduced, they believed it would be a “step in the right direction” to lessen the problem.
At the Oct. 11 regular meeting, the board announced that they had received the results of the study that was conducted by the county engineer’s office. According to Township Administrator Shane Farnsworth, it was determined that the speed limit on Hibbs Road would not be lowered at this time.
“Although we are extremely appreciative of the county engineer’s office for responding to our request and turning this report around very quickly, we were surprised by some of the results in the report regarding speeds and cut-through truck traffic they witnessed (while doing field studies),” said Farnsworth.
According to the report, the average traffic counts on Hibbs Road reached between 1,300 and 1,500 motorists daily with speeds that averaged between 39 and 43 miles per hour.
Hibbs Road residents said they had issues with the information that was collected as the counts were conducted on June 21, 2022 – months before the bridge on State Route 665 was closed.
Resident Bill Hartmann said the amount of traffic – semi-truck and common vehicular – has been increasing since the bridge was closed. He said it is his fear that it will not lessen even when the bridge opens because of the residential and commercial growth the surrounding area is experiencing.
“They’ll just use our road even more as a cut-through (to dodge traffic on state routes 104 and 665),” he said.
The residents and the township officials also said they had concerns with the time the field studies were conducted last month – the Hartmann’s said peak semi-truck traffic is between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – and the crash history data.
According to Michael Andrako, a county mobility engineer, there have been 11 accidents on Hibbs Road in the past three years – nine of which were property damage only crashes and two were injury crashes. He added that these numbers are reported crashes and incidents only.
“We know that there are probably many more unreported crashes or incidents that have occurred, but we can only use the data that has been reported,” he said.
Andrako said the reported crash history is just one of the elements that are used to determine whether the speed limit on a road should be reduced. In addition to the crash history, the engineer’s office also takes into account the daily traffic numbers, the observed speeds in field studies, and the characteristics of the road. He said they compile all of that data and compare it with speed zone evaluation sheets established by the state department of transportation and software tools used by the Federal Highway Administration.
He said both of the state and federal procedures determined that the speed limit on Hibbs Road should remain at 40 miles per hour.
Although the speed limit will not be changed at present, the county said they will work with the state and the township to place additional safety features on the road. For instance, Andrako said they can post no-thru truck signs on the state routes to alert semi-truck drivers that they are not permitted to use Hibbs Road.
Farnsworth said he believes that step would be beneficial for the safety of the residents on Hibbs Road.
“The problem is once (the semi-truck drivers) turn onto Hibbs Road, they are committed because there is no turning point,” he said. “So, we will keep trying to work with ODOT and working up the food chain of ODOT to get those signs onto the state routes so they can see them well before they get to the intersections on 665 and 104.”
The trustees said they have also spoken with the county sheriff’s office to post special duty officers on Hibbs Road during peak traffic hours. Burris said he has even spoken with the county about posting weights and measures officials on Hibbs Road to weigh commercial trucks should they cut-through.
“It’s only going to take one (citation being issued) because they’re going to tell all their buddies ‘I just got fined x number of dollars’” he said. “And then they won’t be going through there anymore because those tickets are not cheap.”
The residents of Hibbs Road said that while they appreciate all of the steps that are being taken to reduce the number of safety issues on the road, they do want the township to continue to work with the county and state to have the speed limit lowered.
The trustees said they will continue to work with any agency in order to improve personal safety for the residents.
“We’re trying all we can within our realm of what we can do and we’re not going to stop,” said Burris. “We are not going to stop.”