Here’s where the Rubber meets the road. A crash analysis study conducted from 2007 to 2009 by the Ohio Department of Transportation revealed the 1 1/2-mile stretch of Interstate-76 and 77 had nearly 46 crashes a year compared to 31.1 statewide. Next month, ODOT begins a three-year, $96.4 million project to reconfigure the Main and Broadway interchange’s ramps. But many businesses have been forced to relocate to make way for the updates, raising questions if it’s worth it.
Every day, more than 100,000 cars travel past the interchange. By limiting traffic to one entrance and exit from the highway in each direction and opening up Main Street as a two-way street, ODOT and the city hope to limit crash frequency. “Safety is our No. 1 concern,” says Akron deputy director of public service Chris Ludle. “Because of the high traffic volumes and the numerous points of potential conflict, this area is a high priority.” In addition, Ludle adds, the city can update utilities such as splitting sanitary and stormwater sewers during the project.
Since 2013, ODOT has acquired and demolished 33 properties and sectioned off parts of 72 other lots for the project. Businesses risked being landlocked or were forced to relocate entirely. Roads south of the interchange will be turned into secondary streets, limiting through-traffic. “It’s going to have a real negative impact on the area within a mile radius of this project,” says Bill Hardgrove, who relocated his 45-year-old Akron Novelty & Merchandise to Barberton. “There’s an awful lot of other small businesses that are going to wind up going out of business.”