State Route 8, threading its way from Marietta to Cleveland in northeast Ohio’s Summit County, was one of Ohio’s original state highways. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), since 1926 this once rural roadway has undergone significant growth and has evolved into one of its busiest highways.
Currently under way is Phase II of a $268 million reconstruction to eliminate at-grade intersections, add 10 new bridges and repair existing bridges, build frontage service roads, improve on-ramps and off-ramps, erect noise abatement walls, and improve existing pavement. A new interchange is being constructed to connect the I-80/Ohio Turnpike with Hines Hill and Boston Mills roads, alleviating the need for traffic signal stops.
Begun in 2008 the $148.2 million Phase II extends from slightly south of Twinsburg Road to SR 303. At grade intersections at Hines Hill and Boston Mills roads are being eliminated. Access to SR 8 will be via local frontage roads. The contractor is Kenmore Companies of Akron, Ohio.
“Once the SR 8 Phase II project is complete, motorists will be able to travel the SR 8 corridor between Akron and I-271 without interruption,” Justin Chesnic, spokesperson of ODOT district 4 said. “Over the past several years, our construction projects have improved the condition along SR 8 and once they are all complete, it will reduce congestion and improve traffic flow drastically.”
“ODOT Project 581(08) is the current [and last] major reconstruction project of the SR-8 corridor projects. The construction progress schedule indicates that the project is on schedule to have traffic in its final condition by late fall of 2010, and for all construction activities to be completed by June 30, 2011,” said Christine S. Myers, ODOT District 4 public information specialist.
Reconstruction at the I-80/Ohio Turnpike interchange borders the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Metro Park’s bike trail. Seen as a catalyst for economic development, the project also will serve a new hospital and a relocated courthouse, according to ODOT.
Both Phase I and II projects have been funded in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The $120 million Phase I project, which began in February 2007, was completed by Beaver Excavating Company of Canton nearly a year early in fall 2009. It encompassed the area of approximately 1,000 ft. (305 m) south of Twinsburg Road to approximately 1,000 ft. north of I-271 in Summit County.
Shoulder reinforcement, substructure work on the Brandywine Creek bridge, right-of-way clearing, new curbing, sidewalks and sidewalk ramps, resurfacing, drainage system upgrades, and the addition of two left turn lanes at the juncture of SR 8 and Highland Road were completed in July 2007, according to ODOT.
Also begun and completed in 2007 was the SR 8 separation from Twinsburg Road. Beaver Excavating extended the rise of SR 8 25 ft. (7.6 m) to allow it to cross over Twinsburg Road, alleviating congestion and traffic signal stops.
Completed in 2009 was a $7.4 million portion of Phase I which included widening and reconstructing Steels Corners Road and the reconstruction of existing ramps at Hudson Drive and Allen Road at its confluence. SR 82 was widened from South Bedford Road to just east of Crow Drive. The railroad bridge and a culvert were replaced over Indian Creek. Minor structural repairs were made to the bridge over North Street, the railway line, and the Little Cuyahoga River.
Diamond grinding to existing concrete pavement from SR 303 to Graham road was completed, as was work on eight bridges at a cost of $5.7 million.
Work to resurface the roadway from the northern Cuyahoga Falls corporate limit to Akron, including minor work to 11 bridges was completed in 2009 at a cost of $10.8 million.
Also included in the Phase I project was the construction of five new bridges and widening and re-decking modifications to six existing bridges. ODOT has stated that 2.5 million lbs. of reinforcing steel and 8 million lbs. of new structural steel were brought in to perform this work.
Begun in 2007 and completed in 2009 under Phase I was the construction of a new interchange at SR 8 and Seasons Road, including new entrance and exit ramps, at a cost of $15.1 million. Resurfacing between SR 82 to the Village of Northfield’s southern limit has been completed at a cost of $1.7 million.
Plans for the reconstruction of SR 8 began in 2003 under former Gov. Bob Taft’s Job’s and Progress Plan, which was the largest transportation system initiative since the creation of the interstate system in Ohio.
Both Taft and then Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley announced the $5 billion, 10-year road construction program in August 2003 to address safety issues, relieve congestion, and connect rural regions to metropolitan areas.
“We are located at the crossroads of the largest, most densely populated manufacturing region of the world. But our [transportation] system is aging. It is strapped by overcapacity and congestion and sorely in need of new investment to ensure safety and build a stronger economy,” said Taft.
“This aggressive but realistic plan will improve our transportation system and open new economic development opportunities,” said Bradley in 2003. “It will help to rebuild our congested and outdated highway network to keep Ohio competitive in the future.”
To finance the aggressive road improvement wish list, Taft and the Ohio lawmakers went after a bigger share of the federal highway taxes. He felt Ohio had been penalized because of its ethanol fuel use. ODOT estimated Ohio’s loss due to ethanol being taxed at a lower rate at $160 million per year.
Ohio had been receiving only 89 cents for every dollar in gasoline tax sent to Washington D.C. Enactment of an additional six cents per gallon fuel tax, phased in over three years, was expected to make up the shortage. A bill was presented to the Ohio legislature to increase the fuel tax refund to the state to 95 cents on the dollar.
At that time, Taft committed $250 million a year to his list of projects, but conceded the projects would not be possible without annual matching funds from the federal government. At that time, the total two-phase project cost for SR 8 was considered to be $148.2 million. The state committed $112.6 million of the total cost. Of that, $3 million was allocated for right-of-way acquisition in 2004.
Under current governor Ted Strickland, ODOT Director Jolene M. Molitoris kicked off Ohio’s 2009 construction season: “The 2009 construction season will be the first two years of historic investment in Ohio’s transportation system, as we leverage state resources with federal transportation and stimulus dollars. As more stimulus-funded projects are made ready for construction both this year and next, we will put thousands of Ohioans to work maintaining and modernizing roads and bridges, building railroad, maritime, and airport infrastructure, and creating enhancement and streetscape projects.”
In 2009, prior to kicking off the largest construction season in history, ODOT received $774 million in stimulus funds for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects. Ohio’s earmarked highway construction funds combined with stimulus funds to finance ODOT’s planned budget of $2.8 billion, funding projects through the 2010 fiscal year.
Stretching from the eastern junction of I-76 and I-77 in Akron, to Public Square in downtown Cleveland, portions of SR 8 have been renamed a few times since 1926. The portion from Marietta to Newcomerstown was changed to U.S. Route 21. Newscomertown to Uhrichsville became SR 16. In 1969, the section from Fly to Canton became SR 800. It truncated at U.S. Route 224 at Canton. Route 8B was mainlined north of Market Street in Akron in 1969, with the remainder mainlined in 1971.
The section between Front Street and Graham Road in Cuyahoga Falls and Stow was opened in 1974, carrying only the SR 59 moniker between Tallmadge Avenue in Akron and Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. This section had no designated or posted number until 1983 when the SR 8 name was posted.
However, the older alignment to the northernmost portion was officially SR 532. From near its interchange with I-80/Ohio Turnpike northward to its junction with Shaker Heights at U.S. 422, it was known as Northfield Road. Finally, in 1988, the northern terminus reached SR 303.
Between 2003 and 2005 both on-ramps and off-ramps, which had been constructed too closely together, were removed and replaced by service roads on either side of the freeway from I-77 to Perkins Street.
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