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Everything changes

By Paula Scott
Bluffton Icon editor

Watching students cross Main St. at College Ave. after school on a windy 27 degree day in January is educational. Several aren’t wearing coats or even long pants. But most press the crosswalk beacon button and use the crosswalk--however, the flashes rarely sync with my camera.

Most drivers stop for these pedestrians, but northbound traffic is much slower to brake. Some drivers that need to cross Main put the pedal to the medal to do so.

Have you been part of discussions about the need for improved safety measures at the intersection of Main St. and College Ave.? Since a January 10 crash involving a young pedestrian, some residents have voiced strong opinions online and at a January 23 Bluffton council meeting.

Many are calling for the return of a traffic signal (removed in 2009) to the intersection, a simple idea that has proven to be very difficult to accomplish.

Frustrated? I hear you. But everything changes, for good and for bad. What questions do we need to ask in the current situation and who should be called on to help?


Improvements would especially benefit K-12 students who use the crosswalk on their way to and from Bluffton Schools, the Bluffton Public Library, athletic facilities and the Marathon gas station (for snacks). The after school rush coincides with employee shift change traffic, making the period from 3:00-4:00 p.m. perhaps the busiest hour of the day at this location.

An option that could be implemented sooner rather than later is to provide a crossing guard, someone who would use a STOP paddle in support of pedestrians crossing the street. A crossing guard is the first person in the street and the last person on the street.

While this might embarrass the young adults I saw crossing Main, it would also wake up drivers and provide a more forceful reminder of traffic laws.

In 2014-2016, I worked with other Blufftonites to voice safety concerns, which resulted in a pedestrian-activated beacon thanks to the response of the village council and administration. There were two years – yes, two years – of community discussion while this project was debated, planned, budgeted and scheduled.

A traffic light, if allowed by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), would be a major installation with a big price tag. Rough figures from online references suggest costs can be $250,000 or more.

ODOT, which has repeatedly judged that there isn’t enough pedestrian or vehicular traffic at this intersection to warrant a traffic signal, has previously directed Bluffton residents to the Village of Bluffton and Bluffton Schools for recourse.

The village council and school board are our elected representatives who control community funds and enact policies that directly impact our lives in Bluffton.

Bluffton Council meets at 7:00 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of every month, with the next meeting to be held on February 6. The next meeting of the Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks committee will be 5:30 p.m. on February 8. Both meetings are at Bluffton Town Hall, 154 N. Main.

Bluffton School Board meets on the third Monday of the month with some exceptions. The next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. on February 20 in the Elementary Media Center, 102 S. Jackson.

Attending and speaking up at these meetings is one way to help get the ball rolling on improvements to pedestrian safety. You can also write to the Village and school district at the above addresses or to Council President Jerry Cupples at [email protected] and School Board President Brad Dailey at [email protected].

What else can Bluffton residents do right now to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers on Bluffton streets? What changes would you like to see?