Highway motorists traveling on the west side of Akron have reason to rejoice.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is reopening all eastbound lanes of Interstate 76-77 during peak travel times starting Sunday.

The state agency reduced the eastbound direction to one lane and closed area ramps in early February to make emergency repairs to the East Avenue bridge over the interstate where I-76 and I-77 merge and diverge on the city's west side. The lane closures have caused lengthy backups on the highway at times and forced thousands of drivers to take long detours each day.

The lanes and ramps will reopen by 7 p.m. Sunday, ODOT spokesman Justin Chesnic said.

But that doesn't mean all the work is complete — or that the closures are over.

There is still utility work that needs to be done and ODOT will reduce the highway to one lane and close the I-76 eastbound ramp to the Kenmore leg of the interstate between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day next week.

The state agency was forced to close the lanes and ramps after a bulldozer being hauled by a tractor-trailer struck the underside of the bridge in December, damaging the steel beams. Contractors repaired the beams that were bent and welded new sections in place. Several cross braces between the beams were replaced.

ODOT hasn't yet calculated the total bill, which will be forwarded to the trucking company to pay, Chesnic said.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.