Officials discuss Franklin-Southeast safety

SALEM – Methods discussed to slow down traffic and increase motorist awareness at the Franklin Avenue/Southeast Boulevard intersection included installing rumble strips and safe speed signs and replacing a flashing red light on top of a stop sign.

Installation of a traffic signal, though, is not under consideration since a recent traffic study showed the intersection does not meet the criteria to warrant a traffic signal, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said.

Kenst addressed safety concerns at the intersection during a meeting Thursday of the Traffic & Safety Committee of City Council. The $700 study completed by LJB Inc. in January looked at eight criteria, including traffic volume over periods of eight hours, four hours and peak hours, the amount of pedestrian traffic and the crash experience.

Kenst said none of the criteria were met to warrant a traffic light. A multiple-vehicle accident last October was part of the reason the study was done, but out of the eight traffic accidents at the intersection in 2012, seven were caused by drivers who had stopped at the stop sign on Southeast and pulled into the path of drivers who had the right-of-way on Franklin.

He said there are signs on both sides of Southeast Boulevard warning that cross traffic does not stop.

“The line of sight is more than adequate,” he said.

He also said he spoke to former Police Chief Bob Floor and Fire Chief Jeff Hughes about the idea of a flashing light at the intersection and they both said it would not help. The cost would be $15,000, which Kenst said he would not recommend. The cost for a traffic light was estimated at $50,000.

Kenst noted that the intersection of South Lincoln Avenue and Franklin also had eight accidents in 2012, including a fatality involving a man with a medical problem, and there’s a traffic light there.

He suggested placing two signs facing each direction on Franklin at a cost of $150 which say “Safe Speed 25.” The speed limit is actually 35 mph.

Councilman Brian Whitehill, who chairs the committee, asked Kenst to check on the cost of repairing a flashing red light on a stop sign which had been damaged. He also asked him to check on the cost of installing rumble strips on Southeast Boulevard approaching the intersection, an idea pitched during the meeting. One man in the audience asked if they considered making it a four-way stop.

Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he reviewed the report Floor had completed and reviewed the accidents and most of them were from driver inattention. He said he’s instructed officers to pay attention to that intersection and talked about how they’re stepping up traffic enforcement for speeding, stop sign violations and other traffic offenses.

He said they’ll enforce whatever laws are enacted by council, but noted a traffic light could result in more noise from large trucks having to stop on state Route 344 (Franklin).

As for the safe speed signs, he said “I do think they get your attention and at least make you think about it.”

Councilman Jeff Cushman, another member of the committee, said a four-way stop could create the same problem as a traffic light, with semi trucks having to stop on Franklin while coming in or going out of town.

Whitehill said he would like to see what effect the effort to reduce speeds could have.

Tonia Gerber, who lives just outside the city limits on Franklin Avenue/state Route 344, urged the council members to do something. She was in an accident at the intesection about six years ago and said she was coming into town on Franklin when a woman stopped at the stop sign and pulled out in front of her. She said people on Southeast think it’s a four-way stop and it’s not. She said people leaving town heading toward Leetonia pass on the double yellow line all the time and speed.

“This is a very bad intersection. Something has to be done,” she said.

She said hearing trucks stopping if it was a four-way stop wouldn’t bother her, but she said the trucks may have a hard time stopping on that hill. Cushman said he feared the learning curve if they put in a four-way stop because people on Franklin haven’t had to stop before.

Councilman Clyde Brown, who was in the audience, suggested the speed bumps or rumble strips to slow drivers down. Kenst was worried that city trucks would pull them up when they plow, but Whitehill said they’re installed in other towns and that doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“I think we should get all the cost estimates first. I don’t think we need to rush to judgment for a decision tonight,” committee member Councilman K. Bret Apple said.

The committee also talked about the parking situation on Southeast Boulevard where Kenst said he intended to install new no parking signs and have the parking ban on the street enforced. Kenst said the street has always had no parking, but there weren’t signs up in the area from Park to Ridgewood and that’s where people seem to be parking. He said people end up driving left of center to go around the parked vehicles. He said all the homes have driveways and it’s not necessary to park on the street.

He said if there’s going to be some type of event where additional parking is needed, residents can call and notify the department and get permission for parking on the street. The police will be made aware.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who lives at the corner of Edgewood and Southeast Boulevard, said she could understand how people may need to park on the street if they have family over. She suggested restricting the parking to just one side of the street.

Southeast Boulevard resident Lewis Dowd said he was glad to hear he could get permission to park on the street for an event, but he still questioned where it’s written that there’s no parking. He said when the street was put in, they were promised there would be no speeding and no trucks and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

He also said the homeowners had to help pay for that street. If they’re not going to get any benefit from that, he said they should get their money back with interest.

The committee took no action, with Whitehill saying he just wanted to start some discussion at this point, with more meetings to come.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at