Brandon Smith sometimes does errands to kill time right after work instead of heading straight home.
It’s not that he’s avoiding his apartment on Montrose West Avenue in Copley Township. He just doesn’t want to deal with the rush-hour traffic jams that often frustrate motorists along state Route 18 west of Interstate 77.
“It’s kind of congested,” said Smith, 29, a relationship banker who works in downtown Akron.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has unveiled a controversial plan to relieve that congestion and will hold a public open house Wednesday to detail the project.
The meeting is from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Akron General Health and Wellness Center, 4125 Medina Road/Route 18.
The goal is to improve traffic flow in an area that has seen plenty of commercial and residential growth over the years.
Montrose West features a popular restaurant row, hotels and apartment complexes, while the Akron General facility and Embassy Parkway developments are across the street in Bath Township.
The popular Montrose shopping area also is just east of I-77.
About 40,000 vehicles a day now travel that section of Route 18, a four-lane road with a center turn lane in areas. It is especially busy during the morning and evening rush hours, partly because traffic must stop at two lights at the Heritage Woods Drive and Montrose West/Crystal Lake Road intersections.
ODOT has broken the project into two phases for financial reasons, agency spokesman Justin Chesnic said.
The first phase, which would get under way in late 2015 and cost $3.2 million, involves widening Route 18 to add an additional westbound lane between Scenic View Drive and I-77 and an additional eastbound lane from just west of Heritage Woods Drive to the I-77 southbound entrance ramp. It also includes new traffic signals.
It’s the second phase, planned for 2018 at the earliest and costing $6.5 million, that’s causing angst for Copley residents.
That phase involves closing Montrose West at Route 18 and then reconfiguring the road so it connects to Heritage Woods in a roundabout.
All motorists who use Montrose West would have to use Heritage Woods to get to and from Route 18.
“I understand what they are trying to do but is it going to create more traffic?” Smith said.
Many homeowners who live in the area and business owners along Montrose West aren’t pleased. Copley Township has protested the relocation of the roadway.
“Our position in Copley is let’s first try adding the lanes [on Route 18] and see how that works,” trustee Helen Humphrys said.
It doesn’t make sense to reroute traffic through undeveloped, valuable commercial property to Heritage Woods, and homeowners there don’t want to see the increased traffic in their neighborhood, she said.
Humphrys blamed the congestion problem on Route 18 on growth along Embassy Parkway in Bath.
Copley officials and homeowners will be at the open house to object again to that portion of the project, Humphrys said.
Chesnic said ODOT wants to get community feedback and said it’s possible that the second phase never moves forward if the widening project solves the congestion problem.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.