Research and outreach keys to traffic plan

The need for new traffic patterns in Howland becomes most obvious this time of year, as holiday shoppers clog roadways heading toward the Eastwood Mall complex.

Of course, it isn’t just November and December when we see traffic backing up because of other special events and collisions at the busy intersections in the areas of state Routes 82 and 46.

One of the problem areas — the interchange at state Routes 46 and 82 — in fact, is ranked as one of the most dangerous in the region, averaging 32 crashes per year, according to officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation.

That’s why we were pleased to see plans announced recently by ODOT intended to improve the flow of traffic in that area and other surrounding areas in Howland, for both safety reasons and relief of congestion that creates frustrating delays. Significant time and money were invested in ODOT’s research of the area and subsequent engineering.

Now we hope the agency is equally as attentive to comments about the recommended changes that were submitted in recent weeks by the travelers who frequently pass through these areas.

Among ODOT’s plan is creation of a “diverging diamond” in the area of the interchange at state Routes 82 and 46, just north of the Lowe’s home improvement store in Howland. This is a relatively new traffic pattern idea, and in fact, a Trumbull County highway superintendent has told us only one other diverging diamond pattern exists in the state of Ohio — in Columbus. It intends to eliminate the stop-and-go traffic by keeping the flow moving smoothly through the intersection.

Other projects being outlined include a proposed right-in only on state Route 82 at Howland Wilson Road; an extension of Kenyon Drive to Howland Springs Road, where it intersects with state Route 46; intersection improvements on Route 46 at Warren-Sharon Road; and widening along the state Route 46 corridor from 82 to Warren-Sharon Road.

Travelers and residents were so interested in the proposal that they submitted more than 125 comments about the projects during ODOT’s month-long comment period that ended in October. Concerns and comments ranged from pointing out no need for proposed sidewalks in the area of the state Route 82 and 46 exchange; concern about driver confusion when motorists maneuver through the proposed diverging diamond; and concerns about traffic backups if other proposed changes are made in the area of 82 and Howland Wilson Road. That proposal calls for closure of the intersection.

ODOT officials have acknowledged all these comments are taken seriously because they come from motorists who live and drive in the area frequently, offering details about things the agency many not have known. We urge ODOT to maintain that thought process, reviewing closely these public recommendations.

If engineers follow through on the proposed creation of this new and unique “diverging diamond” traffic pattern, we likewise urge them to follow through on community outreach plans to educate the public on usage and traffic flow.

Further, we remind them that not everyone travels frequently through this area — many come only around the holidays when heading to Eastwood Mall for the shopping season. That makes long-term and complete outreach, along with clear signage and road markings, even more crucial in order to alleviate concerns of confused motorists entering the area.