Commissioners back Portage on new traffic study

In an effort to keep his town from turning into a race track, Portage Mayor Mark Wolford stretched out
the map of his small community on the table in front of the Wood County Commissioners.
He pointed out the landmarks – the post office, barber shop, village park, Clancy’s Corner. He described
the four lanes of traffic that townspeople have to clear in order to get their mail.
Then the mayor asked for help with Portage’s predicament.
And the commissioners heartily agreed to send a letter to the Ohio Department of Transportation
requesting another traffic study before any changes are made.
ODOT officials recently conducted a traffic study in the town that sits south of Bowling Green at the
corner of Ohio 25 and Portage Road. Their study showed that not only should the stoplight be removed,
but the speed limits shouldn’t be so limiting.
But Wolford is concerned those changes would put his townspeople at risk.
"This is our plight," he told the commissioners. "It’s going to become a race track
through there."
Wolford questioned the value of the traffic study, which spanned six hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a
cool spring day. The study did not take into consideration the pedestrian traffic in the warmer months,
and the heavy vehicle traffic early in the morning and later in the afternoon.
"This is not a ‘come to and work community,’" he said. "It’s a ‘get up and leave’
community."
The townspeople are not pleased with the proposed changes, with an estimated 200 of them signing a letter
asking politicians to look into the matter.
"This has upset a lot of people," Wolford said.
The stoplight was given a state permit in 1929 – when Route 25 was a busier road and Interstate 75 did
not yet exist.
But according to current state standards, the intersection does not qualify for a traffic light.
"They said we don’t meet any of the eight warrants," Wolford said.
Not only has the traffic dropped, but the "business district" of the village has dwindled below
the 300 feet minimum length.
"Unfortunately our business district has shrunk," and thus does not qualify for the current 25
mph zone, he said. In fact, ODOT has suggested that the speed limit go no lower than 40 mph through the
town.
The village could keep the lower speed limits, but without ODOT endorsement, the town would have court
battles for every speeding ticket handed out.
"It would be a new can of worms," the mayor said.
But Wolford thinks ODOT needs to take some of his town’s specifics into consideration. For example,
pedestrians crossing Route 25 have to clear four lanes.
"That doubles the distance you’ve got to get across," he said.
Also, the post office, which sits at the intersection with the stoplight, is quite close to the road.
"The post office sits just four feet from the highway," he said, noting that traffic will no
longer slow down for the stoplight or low speed limit.
The town has just one bus stop for junior and senior high students, meaning that students have to cross
the roadway at 7 a.m., while it is still dark. And residents at nearby group homes for people with
developmental disabilities often cross the highway to get to the park and stores.
"They need more time to get across there," he said.
Wolford said even a triggered light would be better than none, since it would aid pedestrians in crossing
the highway.
Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter said the commissioners office would send a letter to ODOT asking that
another, more thorough traffic count be taken. However, he cautioned that the townspeople should not
expect success, since several communities have asked ODOT to lower speed limits or install stoplights,
but have failed to meet the criteria.
But the mayor was appreciative of any help he could get. "I think a second study would be helpful. I
feel their one little study shortchanged us."