Columbus South Side Area Commission

Public Services Committee

South High Street

High Street has a problem

Today, High Street on the South Side moves cars quickly — too quickly. Its design allows drivers to reach dangerously high speeds while failing to safely serve people walking, biking, and taking transit. The limited marked crosswalks and lack of dedicated space for people biking makes it difficult and unsafe for people to walk and bike along the street.

South High Street isn’t just unsafe for people walking and biking. The current configuration, which has no dedicated turn lanes, results in drivers weaving back and forth between lanes to go around other vehicles waiting to turn. There are frequent crashes resulting from high speeds, including rear-end crashes while drivers wait to turn left, crashes with parked cars, and crashes involving drivers attempting to turn onto South High Street from the many neighborhood streets that intersect with South High Street.

Put simply, South High Street isn’t working well for anyone.

Cross section showing what South High Street looks like today: Two lanes in each direction, with a 20-foot wide outside lane allowing parking and a 10-foot wide inside lane. A shared lane marking (sharrow) is shown in the outside lane.

Crashes

Here is a sampling of just a few recent crashes on South High Street.

Photo of three cars crashed along the side of South High Street.

Photo of an overturned car on South High Street.

Photo of two cars crashed along the side of South High Street.

Photo of two cars crashed along the side of South High Street. Crash debris can be seen in the middle of South High Street.

What can be done?

The good news: there’s plenty of space to reconfigure the street (commonly referred to as a “road diet”) to provide a dedicated left turn lane, dedicated space for people biking, and keep on-street parking. Reducing to one through lane in each direction would eliminate the dangerous weaving between lanes that occurs today and allow the addition of a center left turn lane to give space for drivers to wait to turn left. This would also allow for the addition of refuge islands for people crossing the street at certain crosswalks. This configuration would slow down traffic and make the street safer for everyone — people driving, walking, rolling, biking, and scootering.

This kind of roadway reconfiguration is recognized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a Proven Safety Countermeasure, meaning it has been shown to reduce traffic crashes, especially fatalities and serious injuries.

About that four-lane section…

Here’s what FHWA has to say about four-lane sections:

On a four-lane undivided road, vehicle speeds can vary between travel lanes, and drivers frequently slow or change lanes due to slower or stopped vehicles (e.g., vehicles stopped in the left lane waiting to turn left). Drivers may also weave in and out of the traffic lanes at high speeds. In contrast, on three-lane roads with TWLTLs the vehicle speed differential is limited by the speed of the lead vehicle in the through lane, and through vehicles are separated from left-turning vehicles. Thus, Road Diets can reduce the vehicle speed differential and vehicle interactions, which can reduce the number and severity of vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Reducing operating speed decreases crash severity when crashes do occur.

What about traffic?

ODOT completed a traffic count on South High Street south of Greenlawn Avenue in 2022, which estimated South High Street currently carries approximately 20,810 vehicles per day. FHWA guidance says roadways like South High Street with four lanes (two travel lanes in each direction) are good candidates for a roadway reconfiguration to three lanes (one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane) if traffic volumes are less than 25,000 vehicles per day. This excess capacity is one of the reasons drivers are able to drive so fast, and why South High Street is so dangerous as a result.

How fast is traffic going?

ODOT also completed a speed study when they counted vehicles in 2022. It found:

  • 73% of drivers were exceeding the 35 mph speed limit
  • 38% of drivers were exceeding the speed limit by more than 5 mph
  • More than 600 drivers were driving 50 mph or faster
  • Speeds as high as 80+ mph were logged

The highest speeds didn’t just occur in the overnight hours when traffic is lightest; speeds as high as 70 mph were logged even in mid-day hours.

See full hour-by-hour speed count