The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning a $20.3 million project near the central interchange that will revamp how motorists get around in the East Akron neighborhood.
The state agency has proposed eliminating the Interstate 76/77 bridges over Johnston and Spicer streets by filling in the area below with dirt, essentially building up a giant embankment for the highway to sit on.
That means vehicles will no longer be able to pass under the highway on Johnston or Spicer. And, East South Street will become a dead end.
The bridges need to be replaced, but it will be less expensive to build up the earth below them than construct new spans, ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic said. It also will be less costly to maintain, he said.
A few years ago, ODOT scrapped a $275 million project to reconfigure the central interchange for safety reasons because of a lack of money.
The agency still wants to revisit that project one day and it would be silly to build new bridges only to have them torn down a few years later, Chesnic said.
As part of the new effort, Johnston will be relocated to run parallel to the highway on the north side. The road also will be extended west to Brown Street, where it will be aligned to meet Lamparter Street and form a four-way intersection with a traffic signal.
ODOT also plans to widen Brown from East South to Lamparter, and install sidewalks in the area.
Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2015.
The agency will have to take some private property for the project and it’s likely that some homes will be torn down, Chesnic said.
That area is filled with older, rundown homes. The Beacon Journal was unable to contact property owners Friday.
“Most of the people in the area who we’ve talked to are very much in support of it,” Chesnic said. “We haven’t run into too much opposition from people.”
ODOT will hold a public forum from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Leggett Community Learning Center, 333 Thornton Ave., to allow the public to look over the plans, ask questions and even vote on whether the project should go forward.
“At this point, it seems like it’s going to happen unless something really earth-shattering happens,” Chesnic said.
ODOT will accept questions and comments about the project design and environmental issues until Oct. 19. For more details, contact Dan Depto about the design at 330-786-4809 or Daniel.Depto@dot.state.oh.us, or Robert Lang on the environmental issues at 330-786-4975 or Robert.Lang@dot.state.oh.us.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.