Police say the injury of a Stow officer in a crash this week while he was providing security in the Route 8 construction zone highlights why motorists need to be more careful when driving through the area, as crashes in that stretch of road have increased.
Monday night’s crash was the 25th since the third week of March in Stow’s portion of the construction zone, which stretches south from Seasons Road to Graham Road, Stow Police Capt. Bryan Snavely said.
“Obviously the lane restrictions, the heavy volume of traffic with fewer lanes to travel, the shifting of lanes within construction zones, the ramps, variables to the ramps, are all factors,” Snavely said.
And the situation is not going to end soon. Construction is taking place as the Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a $58.6-million project to rebuild the highway on both sides from Route 303 to Graham Road, with the project not expected to be completed until July 2022. Work began last year to prepare berms to be used as traffic lanes.
Justin Chesnic, a spokesman for ODOT’s District 4 office in Akron, said preliminary work, including striping of lanes and putting up construction barrels, began this year on March 11, but actual construction work with concrete barricades in place did not start until about two weeks later.
The construction zone north of Seasons Road is in Hudson. Crash information from Hudson was not immediately available.
Stow police say Sgt. Ted Bell was released from a local hospital Wednesday after suffering injuries when his cruiser was struck from behind by a car near Steels Corners Road.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol will be filing misdemeanor charges and citations, including operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, in connection with a crash, OSHP Lt. Antonio Matos said Thursday.
Matos said the driver, Stephen E. Eibel, 57, will be charged with OVI, blood alcohol content test refusal due to previous OVI convictions and failure to move over for a public safety vehicle and not keeping a safe distance.
According to information provided by Stow police, no serious injuries were reported in the previous 24 crashes. Four of them involved suspected minor injuries, two involving possible injuries and 18 involving no reported injuries, just property damage.
Snavely said morning and afternoon rush hour is especially risky. He said driving behavior that is potentially dangerous at any time can be worse in construction zones.
An especially dramatic situation, for example, was when Stow police briefly pursued an SUV as it sped through the northbound side of the construction zone during the early afternoon April 12, reaching speeds as high as 100 mph in the reduced 55 mph zone, according to a police report.
At one point, the vehicle went off the right side of the highway, traveling on grass and dirt to get around other traffic before entering the road again to avoid hitting a sign and guardrail, forcing other vehicles to slow or swerve to avoid a collision. Police then broke off the pursuit for safety reasons. Police said they later investigated but were unable to identify the vehicle’s driver.
Snavely said police are trying to increase enforcement, but the construction itself is complicating things by making it difficult to pull people over.
“We have tried to ramp up our enforcement in the construction zone to enhance safety out there,” he said. “We have been proactively enforcing the reduced speed limits. In general it does make things more challenging with reduced berms and reduced lane widths and just in general construction barricades and equipment out there.”
Snavely said motorists could help by just being more careful and mindful of the hazards.
“We’d like to encourage people to reduce their speed, put away distractions and focus on driving,” he said.
Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.