There is one thing we all dread during the last few days of the Christmas season and right into New Year’s weekend. It’s that old bugaboo – traffic. Traffic volumes in Ohio increase an average of 37 percent for the Christmas holiday and 33 percent for New Year’s Day. With the holiday falling on Christmas, you may want to know what difference that makes. The last time Christmas fell on Sunday was 2011 and the busiest travel days were the Thursday before Christmas and the Monday after Christmas.
“The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and friends,” Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jerry Wray said. “We will do everything we can to make sure everyone gets where they need to go safely and on time. However, we also need drivers to do their part by following the speed limit, avoiding distractions, and making sure they and their passengers are wearing a seat belt.”
AAA is predicting a record 103.1 million Americans, including 4.2 million Ohioans, will be traveling more than 50 miles from home. More than nine in 10 will be driving to their destination, the highest total volume since AAA began tracking holiday travel data in 2001.
One of the places you need to be aware of is the Portsmouth Bypass project. Width restrictions are in effect on U.S. 23, between Ohio 728 and County Road 55 (Fairground Road), and on U.S. 52, between the Ohio 140 and the County Road 550/Wheelersburg exits, for bridge, ramp and wall construction. Although both routes are open to two lanes of travel in each direction, they are restricted to 12-foot lanes, and a reduced speed limit is also in effect at both locations.
Another place where there could be a problem is in Pike County. Ohio 104 is closed between Ohio 552 and Township Road 420 (Boswell Run Road) as part of the Lake White Dam rehabilitation and bridge replacement project. In addition, Ohio 551 is closed between its junction with Ohio 104 and County Road 93 (Bricker Road), near the park office. Through traffic is being detoured by way of U.S. 23 and Ohio 32, and local traffic to the Lake White region is being detoured via Ohio 552 and Ohio 220. Roadway construction is anticipated to be completed by summer 2017, and the lake is expected to be restored for the fishing and boating season in 2017
So far this year, there have been 1,094 traffic deaths in Ohio. Three hundred nineteen of those deaths involved people not wearing a seat belt, and during high-travel holidays, ODOT officials say they take every effort possible to reduce the size and scope of work zones. In some cases that’s not possible. Ohio has invested $2 billion into the state’s infrastructure this year with more than 1,000 construction projects in progress.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.