Friday, August 21, 2015

Massacre Mile

For decades now, whenever I've driven south on State Route 58 (Leavitt Road) past Jaeger Road, I’ve thought about the old "Massacre Mile” moniker for that stretch of the highway.

I’ve never really heard of anyone outside of my family call the road that, so I was surprised to see this article (below) from the August 27, 1976 edition of the Journal refer to it by that name. I guess the newspaper must be where my parents first heard of it. Consequently, they warned my siblings and me to be careful there as we each learned how to drive.

Since Massacre Mile is not exactly something to get nostalgic about, here, in the name of public safety, is the article. ( Hopefully things have improved safety-wise along Leavitt Road in the decades since.

Massacre Mile: A Busy Avenue of Death and Injury
Staff Writer

LORAINITES Terry and Joann Walczak, both 29, are very lucky people.

On August 16, at 6:25 p.m. their car collided with a car driven by Rodney Bowling, 29, of Amherst, along the stretch of Leavitt Road by Jaeger Road called “Massacre Mile.”

They are doubly lucky. First, because neither the Walczaks, of 4247 Miami Ave., Lorain, nor Bowling, was injured seriously enough to need hospitalization, despite the fact that Bowling, of 5524 Virginia Dr., Amherst, was found guilty of driving left of center, and driving under a license suspension.

Secondly, they are lucky because that stretch of Leavitt Road is commonly considered one of the most dangerous sections of road in the city.

Altogether, there have been 31 accidents along Leavitt Road this year. Seven have involved injuries and two have resulted in deaths.

Most of the accidents have been near the major cross streets: Tower Boulevard, Cooper Foster Park Road, and Jaeger Road.

IT DOES not look like a particularly dangerous section of road to the average driver. It curves around Jaeger Road and SR 254, but not so drastically that a good driver can’t manage it without any problems.

Because of the road’s banking, 50 miles per hour seems like an easy speed to maintain.

Yet since the road was widened from two lanes to four more than ten years ago, it has been the scene of innumerable auto accidents, many resulting in fatalities.

Most recently, on Saturday night, July 31, a 17-year-old Lorain woman was killed and her sister, the car’s driver, was seriously injured, when their car collided with another car while she was trying to turn left onto Jaeger Road.

On July 16, a 29-year-old motorcyclist was killed by W. 37th Street and Leavitt Road when his bike was hit by a car.

BEFORE THAT, in November of last year, a 59-year-old Lorain woman was killed in front of 4945 Leavitt Rd. in a head-on crash.

Residents of Leavitt Road have made it a ritual to complain about the road as the accidents have continued. In April of 1975, they tried and failed to get Lorain City Council to vote to lower the speed limit from 50 to 35 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, the string of traffic deaths, injury accidents, and even car – tree or car – mailboxd crashes continue.

Police cite various problems with the road and its users. Alcohol, slippery conditions, and poor judgement all share responsibility, but the nature of the road itself, with its four lanes and sweeping curves, must share part of the blame.

POLICE ARE also careful to note that “Massacre Mile” is not the only road in the city to have a high accident rate, and often wonder why other trouble spots get less publicity.

For example, the major intersections along Broadway, West and East Erie Avenue, E. 28th Street, Oberlin Avenue, and the city’s numerous railroad crossings have claimed far more lives, and resulted in many more accidents.

But because this road was once a mere two-lane link between Amherst and Lorain, an infrequently traveled piece of asphalt compared to the present thoroughfare, people stand in front of their homes on Leavitt Road and wonder at what the road was, and what it is now.

One resident once sent the following description of an accident to The Journal:

“In less than 15 seconds, a man driving the same road I travel every day was unconscious, blood pouring out of holes in his head and neck, breathing spasmodically, twisted and jerking in his ripped, torn automobile. Another man lay on the side of the road in a huddled, fetal position. He must have flown through the windshield, smashed it with his weight at 50 mph (or more) when the cars hit.”

It would be very hard to tell that witness that “Massacre Mile” is just another traffic problem.


Wireless.Phil said...

Go back further.
I'm not sure where it began, I am trying to remember, but as you left the city, part of 58 was just gravel, that had to be in the 50s, I remember sitting in the back of my parents car as we drove it. Don't remember where we were going or what we did when we got there?

Wireless.Phil said...

Ok, I checked the map, I think it turned to gravel around Meister Road, but don't put any money on that.

Randall Chet said...

I remember my parents warning me about "massacre mile". I started driving in 1980 and I remember one or two "bumps" right at the curve where a speeding car seemingly could get airborne.I don't know how long it took the city to fix them, or what caused them (winter freeze heave would be my guess) but they did make that section a bit more exciting.