Enough is enough.
It is time that the Ohio Department of Transportation focus its attention on making the intersection at Route 33 and Johnson Road safer.
There have been two more high-speed crashes at the site in recent weeks. A crash on Thursday morning led to two injuries, including an Athens High School student who was airlifted to a Columbus hospital.
Given the intersection’s proximity to The Plains, Athens High School and Eclipse Company Town, it is imperative that something be done to improve safety there.
This is also a personal subject to us at The Messenger, as our newspaper office is located there. Our employees and customers drive this intersection every day. Many of us have narrowly avoided crashes, and those in our newsroom have had to report on devastating accidents right at our doorstep.
ODOT has, in fact, made previous efforts to improve this intersection. Barriers were installed in 2013 to deter drivers on Johnson Road from turning left onto Route 33 northbound. (Some still do, as anyone who frequents the area can tell you, and Route 33 U-turns at the site are also common.)
The Messenger’s sister newspaper, The Athens News, quoted a State Highway Patrol lieutenant as saying the intersection does not have an unusually high number of accidents given its high amount of traffic.
The actual number of crashes there is 17 over the past five years, which still seems like a noteworthy number.
It is a reality of highway engineering that change sometimes happens as a reaction to trouble, rather than being preventative in nature. In ODOT’s defense, it is impossible to anticipate every potential issue on every roadway. Athens County alone has more than 500 miles of state and federal highway.
Without any change, though, more crashes are inevitable and young drivers are put at extreme risk.
We believe it is time that ODOT officials take a close look at this intersection and determine the safest path forward.