In my column on July 15, I wrote about the Ohio State Highway Patrol attempting to address the rise in vehicle accident deaths. It was a follow-up to a column where I wrote about 46-year-old Warren firefighter Marc Titus. In the Titus column, I had said it was bad luck and bad timing when his motorcycle rammed into an overturned truck on state Route 11 after dark. He was killed in the accident.
After the column was printed, a person named Pat Fisher who lives on King Graves Road wrote to me about the Titus accident, saying the stretch of road where he was killed is very dark and had there been better lighting, he might have survived.
Fisher said, in part:
''I never knew Marc Titus but intended to write to you when it (the accident) happened and now I see you mentioned this accident in today's paper. The exit ramp from Route 11 at King Graves Road has no street lights and on a pitch dark night it is very hard to see when coming off Route 11.
''Several years ago after seeing several of these different incidents I wrote to the ODOT office in Ravenna and explained the situation and said that they should look into putting some lights there before something tragic happened. This exit is used by people going and coming to the airport and also the air base. I never even received an acknowledgment from ODOT. However, I am going to write to them again. My hope is that if the Tribune exposed this situation maybe we could avoid another calamity.''
Well, there have been some developments. And I have some good news to report.
Dear Mrs. Fisher,
Thank you for your letter dated Aug. 10 requesting lighting at the SR 11 and King Graves Road Interchange. Your inquiry has been forwarded to me by District Deputy Director Anthony Urankar for a response on behalf of ODOT District 4.
I would first like to take the time to describe the various types of highway lighting that is used at interchanges and intersections. The most noticeable type of lighting is full interchange lighting such as at the SR 11 and SR 82 interchange you mention. This type of lighting is reserved for heavily traveled locations and cost about $1,000,000 to construct. The second type of interchange lighting is partial interchange lighting that is used at lesser traveled interchanges on the edges of urban areas. An example of this lighting scheme can be found at some of the interchanges along the SR 5/82 bypass around Warren. Depending on the number of luminaires, a partially lit interchange can cost up to $500,000. The last type of lighting installed at isolated intersections as a single luminaire. Typically, this type of lighting is installed by the power company at the request of and paid for by the townships. These single luminaires on wood poles cost several thousand dollars apiece. And finally, in addition to the installation costs, maintenance and energy costs are also required for all lighting systems.
With consideration of the above, ODOT receives numerous requests to install highway lighting along our many miles of state and interstate routes in our six county area. This includes eight interstate routes as well as three other freeways besides SR 11. Due to the numerous interchanges that exist along these routes, financial resources only exist to provide lighting at the most heavily travelled interchanges. In fact, on SR 11 between IR 80 in Girard and US 20 in Ashtabula, only the interchange at SR 82 currently has lighting. This stretch also includes the major interchange with IR 90 which is unlit. Accordingly, due to the low traffic volumes the King-Graves interchange serves, we cannot agree to the installation of full or partial interchange lighting at this time. However, we will pursue the installation of single luminaries at each of the ramp intersections along King-Graves Road. This will involve budgeting sufficient funds and contacting the local power company to conduct the installation. Even though providing isolated intersection lighting is typically a township function, ODOT has agreed to fund this location since it is an interchange.
In closing, while we agree it would be desirable to provide partial or full lighting at all interchanges, with an installation cost of at least several hundred thousand dollars per location, plus maintenance and energy costs, it is apparent that such funding is simply not available. Nevertheless, we are pursuing the lighting of the ramp intersections which will aid navigation during dark conditions. I thank you for taking the time to write and your interest in highway safety is appreciated.
Joseph DeFuria, P.E.
ODOT Traffic Planning Engineer
District 4, Akron
Fisher followed up with with an update in a letter I received last week. In the letter, dated Sept. 8, it went like this:
''Mr. Robinson: I finally received a reply from the Ohio Department of Transportation in regards to my letter requesting that lighting be placed at the intersection of Route 11 and King Graves Road. I am enclosing a copy of it and am pleased that they are going to put some lights at each ramp intersection.
''When I wrote my letter I also called Marianne Nethers. She lives in Fowler and had written an article regarding the same issue. Her article was printed on the page of letters to the editor the same day you mentioned my letter to you in your column. She was very willing to write a letter to ODOT so I gave her the address, which I obtained from someone who works for ODOT. I also sent a copy of your editorial with my letter.
''I just thought that you might be interested to learn that we are finally going to get some type of lighting and hope that it won't take a long time for ODOT to get the job done.''
Here is an excerpt of the letter from ODOT. It is from Joseph DeFuria, ODOT traffic planning engineer for District 4 in Akron. (The full text of the letter can be seen attached to this column at tribtoday.com):
''... due to the low traffic volumes the King-Graves interchange serves, we cannot agree to the installation of full or partial interchange lighting at this time. However, we will pursue the installation of single luminaries at each of the ramp intersections along King-Graves Road. This will involve budgeting sufficient funds and contacting the local power company to conduct the installation. Even though providing isolated intersection lighting is typically a township function, ODOT has agreed to fund this location since it is an interchange.''
I am surprised, if not shocked, that this is going to happen. Not to knock the ODOT, but government agencies are not known as a quick-response kinds of places.
I am glad to have played a small role in this, and glad to help out Pat Fisher, Marianne Nethers and anyone who drives that intersection regularly at night. And I am satisfied that the death of Mark Titus did not go unnoticed by the ODOT.