The mayors of six communities along state Route 8 are upping the ante in an attempt to get the major corridor designated a federal interstate.
In a letter to the Ohio Department of Transportation — which rejected the first request, made by the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) — the mayors said they will look for ways to share the cost of maintaining the road should it become an interstate, as well as seek funds for replacing signage to reflect the proposed Interstate 380 designation.
The mayors asked for a meeting with ODOT leadership in Columbus to further discuss the matter.
The letter was signed by Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Boston Heights Mayor William Goncy, Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters, Hudson Mayor William Currin, Macedonia Mayor Don Kuchta, Stow Mayor Sara Drew — as well as Summit County Executive Russell Pry, Summit County Engineer Alan Brubaker, and AMATS Director Jason Segedy.
“Our letter states that we still think that this proposal has merit, that we hope that ODOT will reconsider its decision, and expresses our willingness at the local level to share [costs],” Segedy said.
Segedy was the first to suggest making Route 8 a federal highway, saying years of improvements to the road made it an interstate in every way but name.
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.
“Had it not come together in piecemeal fashion over the years, it undoubtedly would have been an interstate from the beginning,” Segedy said in his initial request to ODOT.
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 like the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Blossom Music Center and the University of Akron.
In Stow, Drew said being able to tell prospective businesses not familiar with the area that the city is right off an interstate is a valuable hook.
Route 8 is arguably the most significant freeway in Ohio that isn’t an interstate, carrying 120,000 cars daily. It also connects to four other interstates over its 18-mile length and is a critical link between Akron and the Ohio Turnpike, making it the busiest highway section in the region.
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.
In March, ODOT responded to AMATS’ initial request by saying the cost — from replacing signage to additional workers and materials needed to maintain the highway — was too great and “not prudent given the demand on our finite resources.”
The highway is currently maintained by individual communities, but ODOT is responsible for federal highways.
The mayors countered that they would “explore options” for handling routine maintenance in the short term, “with a commitment to working with ODOT toward an equitable sharing of costs, commensurate with the freeway’s statewide significance, in the longer term.”
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.