Martins Ferry Mayor Paul Riethmiller is right: Most local residents understand the intersection of Ohio 7 and Hanover Street in his city is a very dangerous place. They realize a heightened level of caution is prudent when driving in that area.
Most serious accidents at the intersection involve people from outside the area who are not familiar with the danger.
Now, in part because local officials have prodded the Ohio Department of Transportation for years, there are plans to make the intersection and another less-hazardous one in Martins Ferry less dangerous.
ODOT officials conducted a traffic study of the Ohio 7 intersections at Hanover and Aetna streets. Riethmiller said he was informed two changes are being planned.
First, the traffic light at the Hanover Street intersection will be improved. It will be changed so that after a green arrow indicating a left turn from Ohio 7's northbound lanes goes off, it will be replaced by a red arrow warning such turns no longer are safe. Some of the most serious crashes at the site have involved drivers attempting to turn left onto Hanover Street and being struck by southbound vehicles. That change should be made soon.
Sometime in 2016, ODOT plans to construct new turning lanes on Ohio 7 at the Hanover and Aetna street intersections, for southbound traffic. That should prevent some rear-end collisions.
Local officials deserve enormous credit for pushing ODOT to improve safety at the intersections.
That success must be balanced against a puzzling failure, however. Martins Ferry officials also had asked if ODOT could install additional flashing yellow lights on Ohio 7, warning motorists they are approaching a dangerous intersection at Hanover Street. According to Riethmiller, the agency responded it is discontinuing use of such signs.
Why? Flashing yellow lights accompanied by warnings of dangerous conditions ahead serve a useful purpose. We suspect they have prevented an enormous number of accidents in Ohio.
ODOT officials should rethink their decision and consider installing the caution signals.