A Change In Direction

Bradford Sherman
South Centers/CFAES

Highway access for The Ohio State University South Centers will see significant changes come next year, following the completion of a radically new (at least for Ohio) highway safety project planned by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).

Known as an RCUT (an acronym for restricted crossing U-turn), this new type of intersection, with its combination of u-turns and right turns, aims to fix a dangerous intersection of State Route 32 and Shyville Road that has seen more than 39 crashes since 2008 including numerous injuries and fatalities.

The main difference will be how drivers on Shyville Road will interact with the intersection. Drivers wishing to turn left, or continue straight across, instead will be forced to turn right and then will have an opportunity to use a newly constructed U-turn lane. Following completion of the U-turn, the motorist either will be facing in his or her intended direction on the highway, or can simply make a right hand turn to access the other side of Shyville. Because of these changes, the traffic signal will also be removed. Of the 39 crashes reported there between 2008 and 2018, 12 of those were a result of a vehicle running a red light.

ODOT and project design firm Stantec held a public meeting Tuesday, October 22 at the Pike County Career Technology Center. The meeting gave members of the public an opportunity to review the plans, ask questions, and submit written comments/concerns. There was also a driver simulation set up, so that attendees could preview the changes and practice the turns.

Project Manager Corey Cottrell says that educating the community, through public meetings such as these, is an important step in the process.

“This is not a common thing here in Ohio,” said Cottrell, who confirmed that this RCUT intersection in Piketon will be among the first in the state. “We feel like the more information we can make available to the public, than the more successful this project will be.”

Paul Durham, a transportation engineer at Stantec, said he knew of around three such intersections in Butler County, but none others in Ohio. Nationwide, however, this relatively new intersection design is gaining popularity and statistics show that it is a safer alternative to traditional four-lane intersections.

Minnesota, with eight RCUT intersections, for example has seen total injury crashes in those locations cut in half, and a 100 percent reduction in fatal and serious injury right-angel crashes. North Carolina leads the nation with 93 RCUTs; these have yielded a 71 percent reduction in fatal and injury crashes, and a 59 percent decrease in total crashes.

For the State Route 32-Shyville Road intersection, in particular, the number of conflict points will be reduced from 32 to 14. A conflict point is defined as the point at which a highway user crossing, merging with, or diverging from a road or driveway conflicts with another highway user using the same road or driveway. 

The summarized project elements include the following:
•    Existing traffic signal will be removed
•    All traffic approaching State Route 32 from Shyville Road will be forced to go right
•    Median U-turn lanes will be provided to allow traffic to go in the opposite direction on State Route 32 or return to Shyville Road to continue in its original direction.
•    New lighting will be installed at the median U-turns and additional lighting will be provided at the main intersection.

The bottom line is: not much will change for staff or visitors when coming to South Centers; those leaving the campus to get back on the highway, if planning to turn left or continue straight, will experience those more significant changes detailed above.
Work on the estimated $1 million project is slated to commence in the summer of 2020 with an estimated fall 2020 completion. No detours or temporary roads will need to be used by motorists traveling in the area. 

At least one lane of the State Route 32 will remain open in each direction throughout the duration of the construction. By the time work on the center of the intersection begins to construct a concrete median island, which would obviously affect Shyville Road travelers, the two U-turn lanes will already be complete and open for use.

You can find out more by visiting transportation.ohio.gov and heading over to the District 9 section of the site. ODOT has also furnished The Ohio State University South Centers with an educational video on the intersection changes, and you can view that video embedded on this page.