Trustees discuss plaza exit

CALCUTTA-Anyone who has driven in Calcutta knows that turning left from businesses along the bustling five lane portion of State route 170 can be risky.

St. Clair Township trustees and police chief Donald Hyatt are all too familiar with the vehicular mayhem that results from motorists making this decision. One particular location is responsible for so many wrecks that it has trustees considering banning left turns altogether.

During his monthly report to trustees at Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Hyatt was asked if there was anything the township could do to get left turns banned at the north eastern exit of the Dunham plaza, next to the post office.

According to trustees and Hyatt, this is the site of regular car wrecks due to motorists attempting to turn left. Trustees emphasized that they were not considering closing the drive altogether.

“The only thing we’re talking about is restricting the left-hand turn, we’re not talking about closing the entrance or anything like that,” said Trustee James Sabitini II, who owns a business in the Dunham’s plaza.

Owners of businesses near the accident-plagued exit and entrance have expressed concern that restricting left turns at this location would hurt their business, and have previously sent trustees letters stating their opposition.

Trustees and Hyatt were in agreement that traffic accidents at the site were becoming more frequent and severe, citing a recent accident in which a woman had to be cut from her vehicle by first responders.

Robert Swickard stated that the township has been contacted by ODOT in the past because this site is among the top 50 in the state for producing car wrecks.

“We’ve had some real serious accidents there, and unfortunately its just a matter of time before we have a fatality,” said Chief Hyatt.

Hyatt explained to trustees that due to the fact that motorists are turning left, accidents often involve a vehicle getting t-boned on the driver’s side.

“In my opinion there should be no left turn there,” said Hyatt adding, “People aren’t paying attention to the fact there’s two lanes there.”

Hyatt explained that the danger is compounded when motorists on route 170 wave other vehicles out of the dangerous exit, often neglecting the other lanes of traffic. Motorists turning left must cross a total of three lanes, multiplying the danger of a collision.

Trustees admitted that during some hours of the night, when traffic along 170 has decreased, making a left turn at the site is substantially less dangerous.

“In the day time you can’t get out of there, but at night time after 9 or 10 o’clock its a totally different feel coming out of there,” said James Sabatini II.

Trustees and Hyatt agreed it is more sensible and safer for motorists to drive to the intersection on Challenger Drive instead of trying to make the risky left at the other end of the plaza.

Trustees resolved to look into getting assistance from ODOT to have left turns banned at the site. They plan on having a meeting between trustees, the police chief and business owners to find a solution.

“We don’t want to wait until somebody gets killed there to do something about this,” said board President James Hall.