MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Work to widen roads and make other safety improvements is planned in an area of Ohio's Amish country plagued by crashes resulting in injuries, according to federal and state officials.
The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Transportation said they are teaming up on the $14 million project in northeastern Ohio's Geauga County.
The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency said the plan involves widening roads, posting signs, educating travelers and taking many other steps to make the Middlefield area safer for pedestrians, buggy riders and motorists.
A $9.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation was awarded to coordinating agency to help fund the safety improvements, and federal officials said they will partner with the state to fund the remainder.
Many travelers are injured in crashes involving buggies each year in Ohio. Overall, Ohio State Patrol records show 860 crashes involving buggies from 2012-2017 in Ohio that killed 18 people and injured more than 720.
The Plain Dealer reported that one study found that there were 83 crashes with buggies from 2010 through 2014 in the Middlefield area alone. Three of those crashes were fatal, according to the study.
Geauga County is home to 12,000 Amish people, making it the nation's fourth biggest Amish community. The agency's Executive Director Grace Gallucci said the project, which covers five Ohio counties including Geauga, is "a fantastic example of how diverse our region is, the geography and topography and multi-modalism."
Construction is expected to take place between 2020 and 2023 and agency officials said it will work with other local agencies to make improvements. In some areas, plans call for installing 8-foot-wide buggy lanes and larger shoulders for pedestrians.
Crews will straighten and level some roads in the hilly region, install buggy detectors, create new school zones and improve warning systems in current zones, according to the agency.