About 60,000 drivers pass through northern Summit County on Route 8 each day. For the past year, a $58 million reconstruction project has closed a third of the expressway. The roadwork was delayed last week, but is expected to begin Monday night.
In the early 1970s, construction began on the section of State Route 8 between Akron and Boston Heights. Today, one of the three lanes in each direction is blocked off for resurfacing. Anne MacWherter describes it as "very bumpy – not quite pothole’d – but many cracks. It’s irritating."
The road behind
It’s the route she takes a few times a week between her home in Hudson and the charities she works with in Akron. She asked WKSU's OH Really? "What are they doing? Are they being held up by, I don't know, surely it can’t be the weather. Do they take three or four months off every winter?"
The Ohio Department of Transportation did pause work during the unpredictable winter. Spokesman Justin Chesnic says most of the work on the two median lanes was completed last year, but they were doing some striping and incidental work during the cold weather season.
The road ahead
This spring and summer, they’re closing what have been the two northbound lanes. And the median lanes, the ones all the way to the left in each direction, will reopen.
"They've been reconstructed [and] that's what northbound traffic is going to be driving on. Basically when you’re coming from Akron and heading north towards the Macedonia area or I-271 or the Turnpike (I-80), you're going to have two options. It's called a contraflow traffic pattern. You'll either get in the right lane or the left lane.
If you don’t plan on exiting at Seasons Rd. or Steels Corner Rd. or Rt. 303, my suggestion is going to be to get in the left lane. You’ll go straight through all the way up. If you do want to exit at one of those, then you want to get in the right lane."
When I met with Anne MacWherter again, I explained it will be similar to an express/local situation.
Her response? "Oh, that will be fun! I think more bottlenecks are going to be around. I didn't know what was going to happen next. Closing two lanes on the northbound [and] opening the two new ones so there's still two lanes in each direction?"
I explained that the southbound lanes and one of the northbound lanes will be right next to each other, with a divider.
"You won’t be able to get off on Graham Road from the left hand northbound lane?" Anne asked. "That's correct," I confirmed. "They will also be closing the off ramps to one or two of those at a time through May to do all the other work. So even if you are in the correct lane, you won't be able to get off and will have to go up and come back around."
Her reply was less than enthusiastic. "Well, I suppose it has to be done. So I’ll just grit my teeth."
A bridge to the future
After the northbound work is done this year, there will be another low-activity winter. And a year from
now, the process begins again with the southbound lanes. So there are a few more years of work for Anne to navigate on her trips to Akron, and then, it will be smooth sailing once the bumpy roads are a thing of the past.
After the current Route 8 project wraps up next year, ODOT will turn its attention to the south, and the 71-year-old high level bridge – parallel to the Y-bridge – which connects Akron to Cuyahoga Falls. That project will cost about $130 million – double the price of what’s being spent on Route 8 currently.
OH Really? is WKSU’s initiative to make you part of the reporting process. Ask your question now.