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Clifton & Grinnell Intersection changes sought

Seven months after the car accident that killed local teenager Trista Lindstrom, the Greene County Engineer’s decision to maintain current traffic standards at the rural intersection where the accident occurred still stands. But that isn’t good enough for Cedarville resident Ashley Weyandt, who was driving the car Lindstrom was travelling in on June 1. According to her friends, Weyandt wanted to do something to make the intersection safer for others, and so she started a petition to install a traffic light at the intersection of Grinnell and Clifton roads just south of Yellow Springs. With 564 signatures so far, she is well on the way to her goal of 2,000 supporters.

Weyandt did not return phone calls this week, but her petition at ipetitions.com has been circulating online since Nov. 21 through Facebook and other electronic feeders. Lindstrom’s mom, Shannon Lindstrom, supports the effort to increase safety at the intersection. Though she’s not certain what the change should be, she and her family have hired an engineer to reconstruct the crash and assess how it could have been avoided. The family remains hopeful that the information can help ensure that the kind of accident that took her daughter’s life doesn’t happen to others.

“We’re working with people to collect data and really try to look at what the issues are,” Shannon Lindstrom said. “We hope to use the information to, if necessary, make changes so that no other family has to go through this.”

Lindstrom acknowledges that a traffic signal per se might not be the most effective fix — that perhaps it’s lowering the speed limit or moving the signage. But the petition can help raise awareness that the rural intersection is a particularly dangerous one that should be further studied. And the petition, which is Weyandt’s senior project, also serves to empower the young woman who started it.

“It’s a healing thing for her to be able to do something in Trista’s honor, to potentially prevent someone else from going through that,” Lindstrom said.

The process for altering the county’s traffic is highly regulated by the state’s Uniform Traffic Code manual, according to Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer. In order to justify a traffic light, the code requires a much higher volume of traffic and many more accidents than currently occurs at Grinnell and Clifton roads, he said. Based on traffic volumes alone, the intersection doesn’t warrant a light.

“There is a certain volume of traffic needed in an eight-hour period, and that intersection wouldn’t meet that in a week,” Geyer said.

Regarding the number of accidents there, according to data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the intersection sustains relatively few. Over the past five years there have been three crashes with injuries, three crashes with property damage and one crash with a fatality for a total of seven accidents. More accidents have occurred at U.S. 68 and Hyde Road, another relatively busy intersection managed by just a blinking light. At Hyde and 68 in the past five years there have been seven crashes with injuries and four with property damage, for a total of 11 crashes (no fatalities.)

The difference between the two intersections is that two fatalities have occurred at Grinnell and Clifton in the past 15 years, including one in 1998 in which an area teenager was killed. But that evidence is still not sufficient to meet the warrants for a traffic light at the intersection, Geyer said last week.

“The Uniform Traffic Code is there for a reason — so that political pressure can’t be put on someone to do something like this,” he said. “It doesn’t meet the warrants, period. I don’t care if all of Greene County signs the petition.”

After the fatality at Clifton and Grinnell in 1998, the county did erect a number of signs in all four directions alerting traffic to slow or stop ahead, as well as “cross traffic does’nt not stop” signs posted below extra large stop signs on Grinnell Road. And after the fatality last summer, the engineer moved the painted white stop bar a few feet toward the intersection, to encourage drivers to pull up beyond the signage for a better view of cross traffic. Other than that, according to Geyer, the intersection allows for adequate visibility on Clifton Road in both directions for at least a half a mile. Beyond the safety measures already taken, there isn’t anything more to do.

“I can’t drive people’s cars for them,” he said.

Marianne Kettles, who lives near the Grinnell/Clifton intersection, is concerned about the accidents that have occurred there. But she also cautions that putting a traffic light at the intersection wouldn’t automatically make it safer. She believes instead that a study should be done to engineer a solution that would actually work, she said. She also supports the study the Lindstroms are conducting to get the kind of information she seeks.

“You can’t have a solution until you know the problem,” Kettles said.

Local resident Bonita Pence signed Weyandt’s petition because she believes that a traffic signal would make the intersection safer. She often drives hay between her farm properties in Yellow Springs and Clifton by way of Ginnell and Clifton roads, and according to her, drivers are constantly speeding and passing dangerously on Clifton Road. She feels that if drivers knew they might have to stop at Grinnell because of a light, they wouldn’t go so fast. Better patroling by the sheriff in that area would also discourage the speeders and passers, she said.

“Everyone’s always in such a hurry, they can’t wait,” she said. “It’s awful that somebody has to lose their life to get anything done.”

Contact: lheaton {at} ysnews(.)com

A video of the traffic at the intersection is available here: http://ysnews.com/?p=34478

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