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Wrong-way detection system being installed in Cleveland in 2023
Wrong-way detection system being installed in Cleveland in 2023

CLEVELAND - Wrong-way crashes are rare, but often deadly. Protecting Ohio’s roadway users is the Ohio Department of Transportation’s top priority, and ODOT is taking another step toward reducing these types of crashes with the installation of a wrong-way detection system in northeast Ohio.

The system will be installed on a 22-mile-long stretch of both I-71 and I-90 between West 150th St. and East 140th St. in Cuyahoga County. Work is expected to take place in 2023 and includes installation of “wrong-way” signs that flash when activated and 50 detection devices at 25 locations.

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This section of I-71/I-90 was selected based on a statewide analysis of wrong-way crashes that occurred between 2016 to 2019. That evaluation also considered the number of alcohol-related crashes that had occurred within a quarter mile of potential wrong-way entry points, the number of bars and restaurants serving alcohol near the exit ramps, and the amount of traffic using the ramps. This corridor was selected with the intent of providing the most complete coverage to capture wrong-way entries onto the highway.

While wrong way crashes made up only 0.01 percent of all crashes in Ohio last year, they are 40 times more likely to be deadly.

“Improving safety for people who live, work, and travel in our state is a top priority for Governor DeWine and me,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “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.”

So how does the system work? When a detector senses a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction on the ramp, it immediately triggers a pair of “WRONG WAY” signs with lighted borders that flash rapidly to alert drivers of their mistake. A second detector looks further down the ramp to determine if the vehicle has continued down the ramp, which triggers a second set of “DO NOT ENTER” and “WRONG WAY” signs, also with lighted borders, to flash rapidly.

An alert is sent to the Ohio Department of Transportation Traffic Management Center in Columbus who notifies local law enforcement.

Each installation has a camera that provides a short video clip that is received by ODOT’s Traffic Management Center. This video can be reviewed to confirm whether the system was accurately triggered by a wrong-way driver.

“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,” said District 12 Deputy Director John Picuri. “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.”

As previously mentioned, the first system of this kind was installed on an 18-mile stretch of I-71 between downtown Cincinnati to Fields-Ertel Road in Hamilton County. Since this system was deployed in the fall of 2019, ODOT has seen a significant reduction in wrong-way entry. The system has been triggered more than 50 times by wrong-way drivers, verified by the system, and nearly all of them turned around before the entered the highway.

One stand-alone device currently exists in Cleveland on the exit from westbound SR 2 to West 28th Street.

Installation costs for this system are estimated at $1.8 million.