Streetsboro junction ranked most dangerous intersection in Akron metropolitan area

Streetsboro junction ranked most dangerous intersection in Akron metropolitan area

Streetsboro, Ravenna and Kent each contain locations ranked among the most dangerous in Portage County

The intersection of state Routes 43 and 14 in Streetsboro is the most dangerous crossing in all of Portage and Summit counties, according to the latest annual report from the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS).

These reports help local municipalities identify dangerous roadways and intersections and apply for safety funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation to fix them, said David Pulay, an AMATS transportation engineer. This most recent report covered 2017–2019.

“I know they’ve done improvements [at the Streetsboro intersection] over the years,” he said. “It’s just one of those intersections that … just has all the right components of being on a crash list.”

The researchers poured over more than 50,000 ODOT crash reports in Summit and Portage counties to determine their rankings based on crash severity and rate. Researches calculated a crash severity index based on fatality, injury and property damage reports resulting from accidents. They calculated crash rates (measured in crashes per million vehicles) by comparing the overall number of crashes in a given location to its average daily traffic volume. The report ranked intersections and roadway segments separately, excluding crash data on highways, under-construction roadways and animal-related accidents.

Overall crashes in the Akron metropolitan area decreased by 951 (5 percent) from 2018 to 2019. Injury crashes decreased by 160 (4 percent), while fatal crashes increased by 12 (39 percent).

The following roadway segments and intersections ranked among the most dangerous areas to drive in Portage County in their respective categories:

  • State Route 14 and state Route 43 intersection — 116 crashes with an average daily traffic volume of 41,044 vehicles
  • State Route 44 between Tallmadge Road and state Route 5 — 51 crashes with an average daily traffic volume of 12,347 vehicles
  • State Route 59 between Sycamore Street and Prospect Street — 35 crashes with an average daily traffic volume of 14,100 vehicles
  • State Route 14 and Mondial Parkway Intersection — 53 crashes with an average daily traffic volume of 27,030
  • State Route 43 between Haymaker Parkway and West Main Street — 14 crashes with an average daily traffic volume of 4,741

Although Akron held the highest concentration of dangerous roads, Kent alone contained six of the top 50 high-crash roadway segments. Portage County overall contained 14 of those 50 and 10 of the top 50 intersections. But Kent’s standing in this year’s report improved from that of last year, said Kent’s Engineering Superintendent Jim Bowling.

The section of state Route 59 (Main Street in Kent) from Willow Street to Luther Avenue topped the list of most dangerous roadways in last year’s report, which covered 2016–2018, but it ranked 10th this year. Although it could be a normal fluctuation, he said, the number of Kent locations on the list overall dropped from 31 in the previous report to 29 in this year’s iteration.

Local officials have been using AMATS reports to plan safety projects for years. Pulay said he has spoken to the mayor of Streetsboro about tweaking the traffic signal at the intersection of state Routes 43 and 14 in the past. Although it doesn’t show in this report, he said crashes at that intersection dropped significantly in 2020.

But segments of Main Street and state Route 43 (Water Street in Kent) have remained somewhat high up on the AMATS reports for years. The city plans to narrow North Water Street and make it more walkable after it found that the current wider-than-normal roadway has confused drivers and led many to speed. The project on East Main Street will be significantly more extensive, with an estimated price tag of $20 million.

The city has raised about $14.6 million in grants for the East Main Street Area Improvement project since 2018. Bowling said the city and its partners, Kent State and PARTA, seek to involve local residents in planning exactly how the new East Main Street could look and function. Kent State has also agreed to contribute $2.2 million to the project.

The project remains in its design phase, but concept drawings show the new boulevard on East Main Street between Willow Street and Horning Road with two roundabouts replacing traffic light intersections. According to the project’s purpose and needs statement provided by Bowling, it aims to create “an aesthetically pleasing, stately, less cluttered, stress-free street that meets the current demands of East Main Street’s users.”

“To address problems of the magnitude that are tops on that list, you end up changing the place pretty significantly,” Bowling said. “People need to understand and be part of that change instead of us sitting behind our desk and deciding it for everybody. That’s part of the reason why it takes so long: because the place that we’re going to end up with is what we’re going to live with for decades to come. And we want to make sure we do it right.”

Mike Collins, a project manager at the Portage County Engineer’s Office, has also used past AMATS reports to inform roadway projects.

Two of the county’s major roadway projects currently rank on the list, albeit comparatively low. Brimfield’s Interstate 76 ramp on Tallmadge Road, ranking 122 in the list of high-crash intersections, will be moved to the nearby Mogadore Road as part of a $6.3 million project. The ramp is being moved not because of a high number of serious crashes, but because of congestion and resulting minor crashes, Collins said. The project will open to bids in February.

The county is also proposing a traffic circle at the intersection of Old Forge Road and Mogadore Road in Brimfield, which is ranked 140. The project managers need time to apply for grants and plan the project, Collins said, so it’s slated to begin construction in 2023.

Apart from new construction projects, the Ravenna post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol also works to make our county’s roadways safer. It creates heat maps to track high crash areas throughout the county. Segments of state Route 43, state Route 14 and state Route 59 ranked in highway patrol’s top five high-crash roadways throughout 2020.

To enforce these areas, highway patrol formulates a plan based on trends, like frequent speeding or distracted driving, said Sgt. Evan Mace. As the need arises, the patrol organizes blitzes of increased ticket-writing in certain locations. It also uses aircraft surveillance to monitor reckless driving like tailgating and dangerous passing.

Mace said he doesn’t know of an effective way to measure the long-term impacts of these strategies, but their immediate effects remain evident.

“We definitely see short-term reduction in those types of behaviors when we’re saturating an area,” he said. “Just by virtue of blue lights all over the place, people tend to slow down. So it’s a never-ending battle, unfortunately.”

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Michael Indriolo is a visual journalist based in Kent. He is a contributor at The Portager covering a range of topics, including local government and community.