CLEVELAND — In an effort to cut down on wrong-way crashes — which it calls "rare, but often deadly" — the Ohio Department of Transportation is bringing new technology to Cuyahoga County starting next year.
The department says it will install a detection system at 25 locations across the 22-mile-long stretch of Interstates 71 and 90 between West 150th and East 140th Streets. According to officials, sensors will be notified of a car gets on the wrong directional ramp to the freeway and immediately begin flashing extra "WRONG WAY" and "DO NOT ENTER" signs to let drivers know of their mistake, and law enforcement will also receive an alert to find the offending vehicle.
ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks released the following statement:
"Improving safety for people who live, work, and travel in our state is a top priority for Governor DeWine and me. This technology is already helping reduce the number of drivers traveling the wrong way on I-71 in Hamilton County since its installation more than two years ago."
A statewide analysis from 2016-19 concluded the stretch saw a higher-than-average number of wrong-way incidents, partly due to alcohol use and the number of bars and restaurants near exit ramps. According to officials, wrong-way crashes made up just 0.01% of all collisions in Ohio last year, but are 40 times deadlier that normal crashes.
District 12 Deputy Director John Picuri said:
"This project is an important step forward in reducing wrong-way crashes by adding an extra layer to alert drivers they’re driving in the wrong direction. Once constructed, we will evaluate the effectiveness of this system and determine if other corridors in northeast Ohio could benefit from a similar system in the future."
The first system of its kind is currently in the Cincinnati area, and ODOT says it has been triggered more than 50 times since installation. A single device also exists on the West 28th Street exit ramp from State Route 2 in Cleveland.
ODOT says the new system will be in place by the end of 2023, with a total expected cost of $1.8 million.