A pair of dangerous downtown Findlay intersections may be made safer some day, but city officials shouldn’t wait for that day to arrive without attempting to prevent accidents today.
Downtown planners are calling for physical changes to Main Street, even once suggesting reducing the number of lanes, due, in part, to a high number of traffic accidents at two intersections, Main Street and Sandusky Street and Main Street and Main Cross Street.
While the narrowing idea was recently dropped, officials plan to seek a state grant to pay for much of the construction of making traffic and safety improvements in the six blocks between the Main Street bridge and Lincoln Street.
The details have yet to be worked out, but City Council gave officials permission Tuesday to apply for the grant.
Still, it would be a year, or longer, for any changes to take shape.
In the meantime, city leaders and police must not put off addressing the safety concerns.
Awareness of the problems at the two crossroads is better now than even a month ago, and the publicity should prompt more downtown visitors to proceed with caution there.
But much more should be done.
Service-Safety Director Paul Schmelzer says safety issues are being discussed with police, but if police are addressing the problems, the public hasn’t been advised. Police administrators have been mum since the downtown plan surfaced.
Mayor Lydia Mihalik suggests that police staffing limits the time that can be devoted to downtown traffic enforcement. But increased staffing could help. By the end of the year, police ranks could be 63 officers, up from the current 57.
Downtown Findlay, according to a Royal Oak, Mich., firm hired to study the downtown, had the highest number of pedestrian accidents between 2007 and 2011 and the highest number of all types of accidents between 2009 and 2012 in Ohio Department of Transportation District 1.
That information should have sent up a red flag long before now.
While the cause of the accidents hasn’t been detailed, speed is likely a contributing factor. The downtown speed limit is 25 mph, but it is often exceeded.
In the past, “directed” patrols have been used on traffic problems. Police, for example, had a greater presence and issued more citations on Trenton Avenue after many accidents on that road several years ago. Officers have targeted areas surrounding popular bars when impaired driving becomes a problem.
Police have also focused on Main Street when it becomes a race track during morning rush and evening rush hours.
No one is blaming police for the downtown accidents, no more than they would for the city’s heroin overdoses. But police action can make a difference.
The mere presence of an officer, whether parked in an alley or parking lot, or walking the street, is usually enough to get the attention of most people. Issuing tickets downtown could help, as could putting a sign, like the kind sometimes erected in school zones, that tells drivers how fast they are going.
Downtown Findlay may no longer be quaint enough for cops who stand in the middle of the road and direct traffic. But when staffing is restored, why not put an officer out on Main every now and then?
People will notice.
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