A local transportation official says that after major improvements to state Route 8, the freeway is all grown up and deserves a federal designation.
Jason Segedy, director of Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), is proposing Route 8 become Interstate 380.
Along with a new number, the change would make the roadway eligible for federal funds and give it clout that could aid in development and guiding motorists to attractions.
“Had it not come together in piecemeal fashion over the years, it undoubtedly would have been an interstate from the beginning,” Segedy said in a letter to the Ohio Department of Transportation in seeking support for the change.
A spokesman for ODOT’s District 4, which received the letter, said the idea was forwarded to the main office in Columbus and the agency hopes to hear a response in a few weeks.
Route 8 is “probably the most significant freeway facility in Ohio that isn’t an interstate,” Segedy said.
It ties I-77 as greater Akron’s busiest freeway, carrying peak traffic volumes of nearly 120,000 vehicles daily.
It also connects to four other interstates over its 18-mile length and is a critical link between Akron and the Ohio Turnpike.
The state would retain control and responsibility for the road, as it does with all federal highways.
“But the No. 1 advantage [of being eligible for federal funds] would be the idea of visibility and the prestige that goes with being designated a federal highway,” Segedy said.
There is a “subtle but important message” in saying a business or attraction is off a major highway, Segedy says, and the familiar red, white and blue interstate shield would help guide motorists to places such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Blossom Music Center, and the University of Akron.
If ODOT agrees to push the proposal, the change could happen one of two ways: through congressional action, or by a decision of the Federal Highway Administration.
Segedy said his staff proposed “I-380” because Ohio already has an I-280, I-480 and I-680. In Ohio, odd-numbered three-digit interstates are generally those that connect a major city with a long-distance interstate like I-77, while even-numbered three-digit interstates are normally those that bypass a major city.
The change would not affect how the roads are patrolled by law enforcement, he said.
As one of Ohio’s original state highways, the state Route 8 designation once carried traffic from Cleveland to Marietta. But over the years, parts of the route were renumbered until the only portion that remained was a two-lane road filled with lights and intersections between Akron and Cleveland.
In 1962, work began on turning the route into a freeway, but it was handled one section at a time over three decades.
More recently, ODOT spent $262 million to finish Route 8’s transformation to a nonstop highway from Akron to Macedonia, removing lights and intersections, building new bridges and ramps and widening portions of the road.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.