Thursday, January 18, 2018

“Suicide Strip” – January 6, 1968 – Part 2

This illustration of “Suicide Strip” accompanied the article below
Here is the second part of the article about “Suicide Strip," which ran in the Lorain Journal on January 6, 1968. This portion of the article by Jerry Walker describes the last part of the hazard-filled journey.

Lorain to Vermilion: Suicide Strip – Part 2

You’re now on the last leg of the trip. The next obstacle is a four lane bridge that runs traffic down a hill into business-lined East Liberty Avenue in Vermilion.

Watch out for this one. You’re in the right lane of the bridge keeping the speed limit – 50 miles an hour. Suddenly a huge truck barrels past you. The bridge is very narrow, but you squeeze over to the right as the truck flies by. That was close. The truck almost side-swiped you.

Slow down now. The speed limit is 35 miles an hour. Look out for cars pulling out of Berkely Road on the right, which leads into Vermilion-on-the-Lake. There’s no traffic light to hold them back while you pass by.

Easy now, there’s the South Shore Shopping Center and it doesn’t have a traffic light either. People pulling out from here and the new “teen” sports near here tend to get impatient with the long wait. They’ll take chances when pulling onto “Suicide Strip.” Friday and Saturday is especially hazardous when driving past this area.

Just ahead is Linwood Park, you’ll have to stop – there’s a traffic light there. It’s the first since Baumhart Road.

As you drive down the hill watch out for cars pulling in and out of the Lagoons and McGarvey’s Nautical Restaurant on the right.

You go across a short bridge that spans the Lagoons. It’s narrow too, but go slow and you’ll make it.

Up the hill now and towards Main Street – the end of the line. You’ve made it… Now what about the trip back?

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE for “Suicide Strip’s” reputation? The driver or the road?

“Suicide Strip” got its name from careless drivers and with these same drives rest the responsibly of erasing that reputation.

Traffic signals aren’t the answer, according to the state highway department and automobile club statistics and veteran police officers.

A traffic signal is a control device, not a safety device, explains Lt. George Maiden, head of the traffic division of the Lorain Police Department. He said the 50-mile-an-hour speed limit on the four-lane highway isn’t the cause of the numerous accidents. Rather, he pointed to the “much faster traffic” and the drivers of those automobiles as the cause of much of the problems on Rts. 6-2.

HE SAID THE HIGHWAY is under “constant study” because it is traveled so much and that “selective enforcement” is practiced by the police department.

Selective enforcement, he said, is patrol of known trouble spots at the time statistics show that area is most accident prone.

The department hasn’t received any complaints about traffic congestion at SR 58, where two drive-in restaurants attract much traffic.

Beaver Park is a “very dangerous” area he admitted, because of the private drive entering the highway. “High Accident Area” signs have been posted there for that reason.

Police Chief R. E. Fleming of Vermilion pointed to the “potential hazard” created when a traffic signal is erected on a high-speed or four-lane highway. He said statistics prove an increase in rear-end collisions.

He said traffic on Rts. 6-2 was from 30 to 50 percent heavier this year than it was last year, yet there wasn’t an increase in traffic accidents.

Former Vermilion Mayor Louis Rauh Jr. noted “a couple areas that possibly should have traffic lights, but only after a survey by our own police department and safety committee.”

The South Shore Shopping Center area should be “reassessed,” the former mayor said, along with intersections in Vermilion-on-the-Lake and Elberta Beach.

Rts. 6-2 was constructed from November 1955 to August 1957 by the Horvitz Construction Co. at a cost of nearly $1 1/2 million. The main purpose for construction of the highway, explained Donald Trimmer, deputy director of Division 3, (Ashland) of the state department of highways, was to add to the capacity of the existing system, “which it has done,” and to feed workers to the Ford Assembly Plant in Lorain.

Trimmer also said the approaches off 611 are being widened up to two 11-foot lanes and that with the completion of I-90 (Rt. 2), the Rts. 6-2 traffic problem will be eased.

Today, 50 years after the above article was published, things have become much safer along “Suicide Strip,” mainly due to Lorain's economic decline.

Many, if not most, of the Lorain businesses mentioned in the article that caused minor traffic backups (such as McDonald’s, Benny Hart’s, and Roman Villa) are long gone. The absence of the Ford Plant has severely reduced the amount of traffic at Baumhart.

Just as the highway official predicted, Route 2 has siphoned off most of the through traffic that previously had clogged Routes 6 & 2.

In Vermilion, several traffic lights have been added, particularly near the two shopping centers – making a safer – but more sluggish – trip for drivers.

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