Motorists who travel through or around the central interchange in Akron can expect years of orange barrels.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) plans to make $500 million in improvements over the next five years to highways in Summit County. One of the largest projects already underway is improving the interchange at Interstates 76/77 and South Main Street/South Broadway.

Public Information Officer for ODOT District 4 Justin Chesnic said the improvements are a huge project for Akron, which won’t be complete until 2020.

He said the project is important and this project will really create the gateway to downtown.

Plans call for the reconfiguration of the I-76/77 Main Street and Broadway interchange ramps along with a permanent closure of the I-76/77 Grant Street and Wolf Ledges Parkway interchange ramps.

Also as a part of the project several sections of South Main Street, South Broadway Street, East South Street, West South Street, Yale Street, Bachtel Avenue, Coburn Street, Russell Avenue, East Voris Street, West Voris Street and Sweitzer Avenue will be relocated or modified.

Chesnic said ODOT is planning a 180 day closure of the Wolf Ledges Parkway Bridge for improvements. The ramp from I-76/77 east to Wolf Ledges Parkway is expected to close in November. Once this bridge is complete, work will shift to the Grant Street Bridge, which will also experience a 180 day closure. At that time, all the ramps from Grant Street to I-76-77 will be closed.

"By next spring or early summer all the ramps from Grant Street and Wolf Ledges Parkway to the interstate will be closed," Chesnic said.

Main Street and South Broadway Street are expected to be reconstructed into one new Main Street. The new street will feature two north and two south lanes. Currently South Broadway Street only travels north and Main Street only travels south through this area.

Chesnic said ODOT has worked with a lot of businesses in the construction area and access will be maintained to all businesses during construction. The old streets are expected to remain in use before the new Main Street is opened.

"Folks traveling to Akron are going to see a ton of work," Chesnic said. "Some of it is ODOT and some of it is the city of Akron."

New ramps to access I-76/77 will also be created as a part of the new Main Street. Motorists on the interstate won’t notice much work on the interstate itself until 2018. When work is being done on the interstate, all traffic will be shifted to either the east or west sides of the road, but two lanes in each direction are expected to be maintained.

Chesnic said more than 100,000 cars use that stretch of the interstate near Main Street and South Broadway Street daily.

Recently, ODOT completed the restriping of the two-mile stretch of the Kenmore Leg. The reason for this this restriping was so there are three lanes of traffic in each direction to accommodate extra traffic as other interstate projects are under construction. Chesnic said he encourages motorists to use it. 

"The goal is to keep traffic moving," Chesnic said.

The improvements are being driven by safety and capacity. Chesnic said a lot of crashes occur on I-76/77 near Main Street and South Broadway Street.

"Congestion leads to less safe roads," Chesnic said.

ODOT has launched a website to keep motorists informed about changes to traffic flow. Those looking for updates on the project can visit http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/D04/dothedetour.

INTERSTATE 76 WIDENING

ODOT is also planning to widen Interstate 76 in Barberton from two lanes to three from state Route 21 to Central Avenue. Also new pavement will be installed from state Route 21 to the Medina County line.

The widening work is expected to begin early this month.

Chesnic said there will likely be closure of the Barber Road exit and some ramp closures near the state Route 21 interchange.

In late 2018 or early 2019, the Wooster Road ramps to and from Interstate 76 will close as part of the project.

SPICER STREET AND JOHNSON STREET PROJECT

An ongoing project to remove several bridges over Spicer Street and Johnson Street. Chesnic said fill dirt is being added now and several ramps will be closing to allow for the bridges to be removed and a roadway to be created.

The following ramps will be closed for 110 days starting July 25, the ramp from I-76 eastbound to I-77 southbound, the ramp from state Route 8 southbound to I-76 westbound and the ramp from I-77 northbound to I-76 westbound.

Work on the removal of these bridges is expected to be completed in July 2017 with the final coat of asphalt.

OTHER RESURFACING

ODOT also plans to resurface Interstate 77 in both directions from state Route 241 (Massillon Road) to Killian Road. Work on this project is expected to begin in August and be completed in late October or early November.

The ramps from Massillon Road and Arlington Road to Interstate 77 will also be resurfaced as a part of the project. The ramps are expected to have nightly closures.

There will also be various nightly lane closures along Interstate 77 during this project. All of the resurfacing is expected to be done at night.

Chesnic reminds motorists to slow down in construction zones and not drive distracted. He said ODOT is seeing more accidents each year from distracted driving.

Updates on any ODOT project can be found online at http://www.dot.state.oh.us/districts/d04.