COVENTRY TWP: After weeks of dealing with the orange barrels of construction, morning commuters heading into Akron on South Main Street this week met a different traffic nightmare.
More than 900 drivers traveling the northbound route between 7 and 8 a.m. found themselves abruptly funneled from two lanes into one.
Although people complained that the old road was like driving on a washboard, they say they are more upset that a two-lane road with a center turn lane has replaced the four-lane road.
Tim Shank of Green travels the 1.1-mile section of South Main into Akron each morning. He said the merge point that motorists met just north of Portage Lakes Drive on Monday was “just terrible” for commuters.
“They don’t give you any advance warning. You are right up there when you see you are going to merge,” Shank said. “The first day, they didn’t have any sign at all, and that made it kind of dicey.”
By Tuesday, motorists were racing to be the first to get to the single lane, he said.
In the evening, an estimated 815 southbound commuters each day find the same situation as they merge at Axline Avenue just south of North Turkeyfoot Road.
Summit County paid for the $550,000 road resurfacing project that began Aug. 5, with the majority of funding coming through the Ohio Public Works Commission.
It was necessary to reduce the four 10-foot-wide lanes into three lanes because the road did not meet a state recommendation of 12-foot-wide lanes, said Joe Paradise, deputy director of the Summit County Engineer’s Office.
Motorists will need to get used to the lane changes, he said. They will be dealing with them at least until the county widens the road to five lanes in 2019.
Repaving the road is a stop-gap measure the engineer’s office hopes will last until it finds money to widen the road and rebuild storm sewers. The section is the final piece of the South Main Street project that began in 2001.
“This is the missing link,” Paradise said.
The engineer’s office estimates the project to rebuild the road will run between $8 million and $10 million.
“It’s one of the main projects that we are looking for money for. The county engineer’s office has a budget that at most has $16 million a year, and this could be a $10 million project,” said Heidi Swindell, government affairs liaison for the engineer’s office.
A traffic study the engineer’s office conducted indicated 75 to 80 percent of the 15,000 cars traveling on the road each day used the inside lanes, Paradise said.
“They are driving it as a two-lane road. We took a look at safety, because when somebody in the inside lane stops to make a left turn into a driveway, everyone following them, which is the majority of traffic, jumps over to the right, passes them on the right and comes back in the inside lane,” he said.
Paradise said the road surface was bumpy because of uneven catch basins.
“It would cost me a small fortune to reconstruct all those catch basins to be able to be nice and smooth and even,” he said.
But motorists say that traffic study was skewed because no one wanted to travel either direction on the teeth-rattling outside lanes.
“The outside lane is like a washboard, and everybody is always going to drive on the place that doesn’t knock the fillings out of your teeth,” Shank said.
Jeff Pearce, who lives just off Warner Road near the repaved section, agreed.
“The [inside] lane was a lot smoother. The outside lane rattles you to death. You were actually better off if you straddled the two lanes, but the sheriff drives up and down there so much, you don’t want to do that,” he said.
On Wednesday, Pearce said he inched his way home at rush hour until he could make a right turn on Warner Road.
“This week coming home, I sat through five traffic lights at the Warner Road light. The slowdown started at R&S Truck Caps. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic starting at the IBEW [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers],” he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, R&S employees said customers have not complained about traffic, but they did note northbound traffic bottlenecks at Portage Lakes Drive happen around 7:30 a.m. and southbound near North Turkeyfoot Road between 5 and 5:30 p.m., said Ray Thompson of Green.
“That’s when it gets bad,” he said.
County engineer’s office employees have gone out and driven the road during high traffic times, Swindell said.
“We’ve driven it during rush hour several times,” she said. “We got some pictures and we didn’t experience any traffic jams.”
Several people who called the Beacon Journal this week to complain about traffic congestion on the road said they expect bigger headaches during special events in the area, such as the annual Bridgestone Invitational World Golf Championships at Firestone Country Club, when traffic already requires a police presence.
“I couldn’t imagine what this is going to do during the world championship,” Pearce said.
The engineer’s office doesn’t expect any major problems for motorists during those times because of the center turn lane at Warner Road, Paradise said.
“Right now, we are reconfiguring the traffic signal out there and putting in a loop detector so that a car in the left-turn lane can turn as necessary,” he said.
But the turn lane won’t help motorists who get stuck behind traffic that makes frequent stops, such as trash haulers, mail trucks and school buses, Shank said.
“On Monday, there was a trash truck there and everybody was using what we call ‘the suicide lane.’ You know, that’s the middle lane where whoever gets there first uses it,” Shank said.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.