Motorists could see smoother drive through University and Ohio 95

MARION — Harding High School parents and Ohio State students and faculty could see changes on their commute to and from the schools later this year.

A $12,000 safety study is underway at the intersection of University Drive and Ohio 95, where county engineers say the turn lane layout has led to long lines and traffic tie-ups at times. 

“It’s not real regular but we have had some instances during a bad peak time where it gets 1,500 feet or more,” said Marion County Deputy Engineer Phil Wright.

Wright said traffic congestion at the intersection has improved since the county engineer’s office and the Ohio Department of Transportation worked out new traffic light timing, but he said the engineer’s office still wanted to take advantage of public dollars available to study the intersection.

“With the opportunity to get a study funded, it was a good opportunity to get somebody in there to look at the functionality of that intersection and its safety,” he said.

The traffic backups sometimes occur on University Drive in the northbound lane at the traffic signal, where the right-turn lane also is a straight lane. Wright said the backups tend to occur when classes are letting out or about to start at Harding High School or The Ohio State University at Marion.

Wright said the study will look at traffic patterns, pedestrian crossings, the number of cars passing through the intersection and the overall safety of the intersection. 

He said the study won’t be over until the summer, but that it could yield any number of recommendations from changing the signal timing or the pavement markings to widening the road.

Dave Claborn, director of community relations and development at OSU-M, said he hasn’t seen as much congestion at the intersection since the signal timing was adjusted. Claborn, who works in Maynard Hall overlooking University Drive, said he used to see cars backed up on University Drive south of Ohio 95 almost to the next traffic light — around 1,500 feet. 

“It’s part of the growing pains, I guess,” he said. “It’s good to have these problems rather than no traffic at all.”

University Drive south of Ohio 95 was opened in November 2015, a $3 million project that opened up access between commercial areas along Ohio 95, the OSU-M and Marion Technical College joint campus and residential zones to the south.

Now, though, Claborn said, the traffic at the intersection is “not usually that bad when I’m leaving.”

What does concern Claborn about the intersection is safety for pedestrians, as students will cross the intersection on the way restaurants across the street or on the way to The Annex of Marion, the student apartments just north of Ohio 95.

Wright said 90 percent of the study’s cost will come from federal funding — though the money is managed by the Ohio Department of Transportation — while the other 10 percent will be put up by the county.

The county decides whether to apply for funding for a specific intersection on a case-by-case basis, Wright said.

“Typically we don’t deal with state route intersections as far as safety goes. We kind of let that be ODOT’s jurisdiction, but in this case, it was causing us some functional issues on our roadway,” he said.

The last intersection study that the county engineer’s office conducted was at Marion Cardington and Smeltzer roads, he said.

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