A large blackened area of scraped-up pavement is evidence of another tractor-trailer driver’s attempt to make an ill-fated left hand turn from Groves Avenue onto Ohio 676 at the top of Slaughterhouse Hill.
Right turns are no problem for the semi drivers, but a left turn is impossible for the vehicles that are often towing trailers 40- to 50-feet in length.
Residents say the number of trucks becoming stuck in the intersection has increased over the last couple of years. The latest incident was just last week.
“Traffic could get by that one, but most of the time the trucks hold up traffic on 676, and the state police or sheriff’s office have to close the road until the trucks can be moved,” said Gale Binegar, who’s lived along Ohio 676 just east of the intersection for more than 30 years.
He noted at least one of the big trucks ran through his neighbor’s yard, creating deep ruts in the lawn as the driver make a wide swing trying to avoid becoming stuck in the sharp turn.
“If I’m outside I’ll try to warn truck drivers not to try and turn left there,” Binegar said. “If I was driving a truck that size I wouldn’t even attempt it.”
Marietta Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, has had some firsthand experience with a trucker who apparently became disoriented at the Groves Avenue intersection with Gilman Avenue at the bottom of Slaughterhouse Hill.
“I saw this truck turning up Groves from Gilman Avenue and flagged the driver down,” he said. “I asked where he was going and he told me he was trying to get to I-77. I told him that was the wrong way, then had to help him move the truck and trailer back down onto Gilman.”
Vukovic, who lives less than a mile from the intersection of Groves and Ohio 676, drives or bicycles along Groves Avenue and has seen more than one semi stuck at the top of the hill.
Both Vukovic and Binegar said the truckers, most of whom have been returning from deliveries to the RJF facility in Oak Grove, are apparently relying on their global positioning satellite units for the closest route to Ohio 7 north or south.
“When they turn off of Gilman Avenue onto Groves the GPS ‘recalculates’ the best route which includes a left turn onto Ohio 676 at the top of the hill,” Binegar said.
Trooper Tim Gossett with the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Marietta post agreed the problem usually boils down to a GPS issue.
“Almost all of the truckers we talk to say their GPS was taking them that way to get back onto Ohio 7,” he said. “And most of those drivers are from out of town and are not familiar with the local roadways.”
Gossett said a large tow truck has to be called to move the trailer when a semi gets stuck at the intersection, and it may a while for the tow truck to respond, so Ohio 676 may be closed to traffic for up to an hour sometimes.
“We usually try to back the trucks out onto 676, then send them back down Groves Avenue to Gilman,” he said.
As for a solution to the problem, Gossett said some signs could help prevent the trucks from traveling up Groves Avenue to make a left hand turn.
The upper end of Groves Avenue where it meets Ohio 676 is a county road, while the lower end is inside the Marietta city limits.
Washington County Engineer Roger Wright said the intersection has been an issue for some time.
“At one time we had looked at the possibility of widening Groves Avenue at the intersection, but that would have been expensive and would have required us to buy a lot of right of way,” he said. “I talked to a lady who’s yard was torn up by a truck trying to make that turn a couple of months ago. I told her we would look into putting up some signs in that area for ‘no thru trucks’ or ‘no left turn ahead.’ It’s something we’re going to look at, but whether it’s something we can completely fix is a different story.”
Wright said there are similar issues on other county roadways, including Sparling Road (County 32) where truckers bound for Globe Metallurgical on Sparling Road have said their GPS units tell them to turn onto Clark Hill Road.
Marietta City Council is considering legislation proposed by Vukovic that would include eliminating all of Groves Avenue as a thru truck route. He said only trucks making local deliveries to the Washington County Career Center and other area businesses would be allowed to use Groves Avenue.
The city has installed a small ‘no thru trucks’ sign at the bottom of the hill near the Groves and Gilman avenues intersection, according to David Rose, spokesman for Ohio Department of Transportation District 10.
But he said there are currently no plans in place for signs or to make changes on Ohio 676 at the Groves Avenue intersection.
“But we’re always willing to work with our local partners, the county and city, on solutions for these issues,” he said, adding that Wright’s recommendation for a meeting of the three entities makes good sense.