BOSTON HEIGHTS: Village police have a long-held reputation — deserved or not — of running a speed trap along state Route 8.
The distinction is decades old, from an era when police there were known as the Boston Stranglers.
But since the Ohio Department of Transportation rebuilt the road into a nonstop highway and bumped up the speed limit from 50 mph to 65 mph through the community, officers are nabbing far fewer speeders.
It appears that speed-trap label no longer fits.
The number of traffic citations handed out by police has steadily dropped from 5,611 seven years ago to 2,379 last year.
At first, the decline was due to traffic slowing down for the massive, multiyear highway project, which stretched from Akron to Macedonia.
In Boston Heights, ODOT eliminated the intersections and traffic signals at Hines Hill and Boston Mills roads; closed off access to the highway from Twinsburg Road; and retooled the Ohio Turnpike interchange. The state agency put the finishing touches on the project last year.
Village police Chief Joseph Varga said Route 8 is much safer now than it used to be. In addition to seeing fewer speeders, he said, police are responding to fewer traffic crashes and road-rage incidents.
“The traffic has really flowed through,” he said. “It’s good because our accidents are down. Our injury accidents are down 65 percent, and regular property accidents are down 75 percent.”
Police used to handle about 30 to 40 accident reports a month, he said. Authorities just hit 40 for the year.
“That was the goal: To open it up and make it a lot safer and make the commute a lot better for people, too,” said ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic.
About 60,000 vehicles use that stretch of highway each day.
The speed limit used to drop to 50 mph in the village because of the lights and intersections. But with the traffic lights and intersections gone, the limit was raised to 65 mph.
Police still keep a close eye on the highway, but motorists, in general, are obeying that new speed limit, Varga said.
Some drivers aren’t even going 65 mph, because they’re uncomfortable traveling so fast through the village after years of watching their speed, he said.
The police chief laughed off complaints about the community’s reputation of being a speed trap. Officers hand out tickets only to those traveling well over the limit, he said.
Before the highway project, motorists also would get frustrated with the congestion and having to stop at the traffic lights in town. There was the occasional road-rage case, but those incidents are down, Varga said.
Boston Heights residents have had to adapt to the new highway, too.
“As residents, we’ve had to adjust to the new access routes around the Turnpike and the loss of access from Twinsburg Road,” resident Steve Milburn said. “There has also been an increase in the Route 8 noise level from the nonstop traffic.”
He added that police still are watchful about speeding. He was stopped while on a side road near the Turnpike.
“From personal experience, the village’s enforcement of speed limits hasn’t gone away,” Milburn said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.