SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Residents of Shawnee Township are resting a little bit easier after a public meeting Thursday held at the Shawnee Township Building.
The Ohio Department of Transportation held the meeting to discuss options to improve the intersection of state routes 117 and 501. A large turnout listened to a brief presentation from ODOT Transportation Engineer Eric Scheckelhoff.
Scheckelhoff presented two plans designed to improve the safety at the busy intersection just west of Lima. State Route 117 is a major route into Lima from the western parts of the county, and state Route 501 is a direct route to Wapakoneta from that side of town.
The intersection of the two highways is at an angle which makes it difficult for people to see or judge the speed of oncoming cars. Because neither route has turn lanes, those drivers trying to turn left against traffic often are at a stop in the intersection while waiting on a gap.
State Route 117 has the right of way, and state Route 501 has stop signs.
It has been the site of many accidents, with 21 crashes between 2010 and 2012 alone. Scheckelhoff said the intersection even nearly wiped out an entire family in one collision.
Construction would include squaring off the intersection for better view for drivers, adding turn lanes on state Route 117 to prevent rear-end accidents, and widening the roads.
“Reconstruction of the intersection will enhance safety and improve the operational efficiency of the intersection by applying current design standards and eliminating deficiencies,” Scheckelhoff said.
State Route 117 would be widened 17 feet to account for the turn lanes and would give drivers more visual room, Scheckelhoff said.
However, one of the two options could possibly result in the demolition of Good Ground World Ministries Inc., a church that sits on the northwest corner of the intersection. In option A of the project, the state would use eminent domain to buy the church and tear it down. In option B, the intersection would be built around the church so the building would not have to be razed. Several members of the church were at the meeting and relieved to hear that ODOT was leaning toward Option B.
“We were alerted of the possibility a couple of weeks ago,” said the Rev. Kenneth Keys, pastor at the church. “Obviously, we were severely concerned at what may happen. We acquired the church three years ago and we have began to make a lot of progress in that area.”
Keys said the church had historical value, stating that it had not been altered since it was built in 1882. He said the church plans to look into registering the building as a historical landmark.
“We don’t want it to go,” Keys said of the church. “We were very encouraged by what we heard tonight.”
Contract bids for the project will be opened early in 2016, and the planned construction schedule is between April and October 2016. Two lanes will be maintained on state Route 117, and efforts will be made to maintain traffic on state Route 501, but short-term closures are expected. Estimated cost for the project is $1.35 million for Option A and $1.38 million for option B. Scheckelhoff said the costs would include real estate purchases, utility relocations and construction costs.
Shawnee township Trustee Dave Belton said he was encouraged that the state was addressing changes needed at the intersection.
“We are proud that they are addressing this situation,” Belton said. “There have been a lot of fatalities at that intersection. It is a high-speed intersection, especially in the east-west directions. There also are a lot of children that live in the Indian Brook Subdivision, and school buses cross that intersection every day.”