To the Editor:
The Nelsonville bypass will provide one of the most beautiful
drives in southeast Ohio when it's completed this spring/early summer (my
opinion based on long walks and bike rides these past three years).
More importantly, it will cut about eight minutes off the drive that started at Haydenville, when motorists merged from a four-lane to a two-lane highway right on through Nelsonville. Motorists coming from Lancaster to Athens will find a single traffic light at the small town of Sugar Grove, and that's it.
The proposed closure of the median crossover between the east and westbound lanes of Route 33 at Johnson Road and River Road has understandably raised concerns for those going to The Athens Messenger, the Athens High School, businesses in Eclipse, and residents of The Plains who use Route 682 and don't want to see it and their residential streets turn into major, congested access roads. Can you blame them?
Please bear in mind – if you read the rest of this – that Nelsonville serves as a traffic flow regulator to traffic coming to Athens. When the bypass opens, so does a floodgate. Get ready.
A traffic light at that (Johnson Road) intersection can have the following benefits:
1. It would serve as a notice to all eastbound motorists that they are on the threshold of the city of Athens and need to be more cautious as they approach all the exits and the highway split for U.S. 50 that start a mile down the highway at Columbus Road and continue for the next five miles.
2. It would restore the ability of River Road residents to go east on Rt. 33 and Johnson Road residents to go west on Rt. 33, without having to back-track to the next exit. This might save lives because people won't be tempted to ignore the existing "no turn" signs, or to cut across Rt. 33. Saving lives is the main goal of the proposed median closure.
3. It would prevent the imposed need for hundreds of students and staff going to and from the high school, whether by car or bus, to travel four miles out of their way in congested traffic, deal with two – maybe three – traffic lights, and clog what is now a fairly busy Rt. 682. You can bet that side streets will see much more traffic, too.
4. It would allow restaurant owners in Eclipse to stay in business and expand.
5. It would help maintain costs and efficiencies at The Athens Messenger.
Compare all the benefits of a new traffic light against a potential two-minute wait at that light. Motorists will still save a minimum of six minutes and three fewer lights (in Nelsonville). A light will better serve the communities of The Plains and Athens than an access closure.