The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is pursuing funds to design and construct additional travel lanes on I-77 in northern Summit County. Widening of a 9.2-mi.-long corridor on I-77 is proposed between the Ghent Road and Ohio Turnpike interchanges in the city of Fairlawn, Bath and Richfield Townships and the Village of Richfield.
In 1956, the United States government implemented the Interstate Highway Aid Act, which provided billions of dollars to build the interstate highways. Construction of I-77, then U.S. 21, began in 1961. I-77 was originally constructed as a four-lane divided highway, as it is today in the corridor.
ODOT studied current and future projected traffic volumes on I-77 in the corridor and concluded that a third travel lane in each direction is needed to improve and maintain traffic flow. Next, ODOT examined various construction methods to add the third lane while meeting modern highway standards for design and safety and being financially efficient. It was determined the additional pavement for the third lane should be built within the center grass/wooded median.
Additional improvements proposed along I-77 with this project include bridge and pavement repairs, drainage improvements, lighting upgrades, sign replacements and pavement markings.
ODOT also examined potential improvements to the interchanges in the corridor. Proposed modifications to the Ghent Road interchange include increasing the length of the right turn lane on the I-77 southbound exit ramp to Ghent Road; a left turn lane on the I-77 northbound exit ramp to Ghent Road; and lane reassignments along Ghent Road within the interchange area. At the Wheatley Road interchange, a right turn lane is proposed on the I-77 southbound exit ramp to Wheatley Road.
The I-77 corridor from Ghent Road to the Ohio Turnpike was divided into two parts for plan development and funding purposes. Each part is expected to be constructed separately. The two parts of I-77 project corridor are from Ghent Road to Everett Road and from Everett Road to the Ohio Turnpike.
One reason the corridor was split for design and construction is the bridges on I-77 from Ghent Road to Everett Road were widened years ago to accommodate a future third travel lane in each direction. The bridges on I-77 from Everett Road to the Ohio Turnpike will need to be widened to include the third travel lane in each direction.
A traffic noise analysis was completed for the project and recommended construction of one noise wall at the Ghent Road interchange if supported by nearby residents and property owners who will be contacted at a later date. Noise walls are not recommended at other locations along the I-77 corridor because they do not meet ODOT cost reasonable criteria, meaning they are too expensive and do not provide a benefit to enough residents. ODOT will investigate the possible construction of earthen berms within the I-77 project construction limits to provide some level of noise abatement to the residential areas that do not meet the ODOT noise wall cost reasonable criteria.
ODOT has two engineering firms working on the two separate parts of the corridor. Each firm is currently working on preliminary construction plans for the project. However, additional funding is needed for the detailed design phase of the construction plans and project construction. ODOT will seek this funding in 2021.
The estimated construction cost of the Ghent Road to Everett Road part is $50 million, while the estimated construction cost of the Everett Road to the Ohio Turnpike part is $75 million.
When the projects will be constructed is based on various factors, including funding availability. The first part of the project to be constructed, from Ghent Road to Everett Road, may begin as early as 2024. Each part is expected to take two years for construction.
Minor impacts to ecological resources are expected to construct the project. Project construction will not impact any other environmentally sensitive resources.
More details on this project will be provided if and when additional funding is secured and more detailed plans are developed.
For more information, visit transportation.ohio.gov.