Roadwork is going to tie up traffic for thousands of drivers in northern Summit County beginning next week when construction season opens and several ramps close on state Route 8.
In 2019, ODOT reconstructed the median lanes of Route 8 northbound and southbound. This year, traffic will be redirected as crews reconstruct the two right lanes of Route 8 north.
Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Chesnic said the traffic changes are a continuation of the multi-year reconstruction project on Route 8.
An estimated 55,000 to 60,000 drivers pass through the affected stretch of highway in Stow, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson and Boston Heights daily.
One of those drivers, Melinda Crum, said she expects the project will add about 15 minutes to her daily commute to work in Cleveland.
"It’s going to make it really tough to get to work every day," Crum said Wednesday while at the Panera restaurant near the Route 8-Graham Road exit. "Traffic’s going to be tough for a little while."
The $58.6 million project starts south of the Graham Road interchange and ends at the ramp to state Route 303.
Beginning Feb. 26, northbound traffic will be split into two lanes. The right lane will use the recently reconstructed median lane while the left lane will cross over onto Route 8 southbound. The traffic pattern is expected to last until late October.
Drivers wanting to exit at Seasons Road, Steels Corners Road or Route 303 will need to travel in the right lane. The left lane won’t have access to those exit ramps.
Also beginning Feb. 26, four ramps on the highway will be closed.
Posted detours for the route 8 construction.
The ramp from Route 8 northbound to state Route 303 will be closed for ramp reconstruction. The posted detour will be Route 8 northbound to Boston Mills Road to Chittenden Road to Route 303.
According to the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS), 5,500 drivers use that ramp each day.
The on-ramp from Steels Corners Road to Route 8 northbound will be closed. The detour will be Steels Corners Road to Hudson Drive to Seasons Road to Route 8. The Route 8 northbound off-ramp to Steels Corners Road will also be closed, with the same detour.
According to AMATS, about 10,100 drivers use the off-ramp at Steels Corners Road each day. About 2,800 drivers use the on-ramp to go north.
Chesnic said a mild winter is allowing construction to start, and, hopefully, end earlier.
"The goal is to close them early in the year so we can open them early in the year," he said.
Chesnic said the plan is to reopen the three ramps by late April.
In addition, the on-ramp from Graham Road to Route 8 northbound will be closed until late June. The ramp won’t be reconstructed, but bridge repair north of the exit leaves no safe way to get onto Route 8 from the ramp. According to AMATS, about 5,500 drivers use the ramp each day.
The detour will be Graham Road to Wyoga Lake Road to Seasons Road to get to Route 8.
After construction finishes on the Route 303 and Steels Corners ramps, Chesnic said the on- and off-ramp at Seasons Road will be closed short-term for work. He expects that to happen in May.
AMATS Transportation Engineer David Pulay said while official detours are posted, it’s difficult to know how people will react to the closure. He said where traffic goes will depend a lot on each person.
"Traffic is very similar to water, where it will take the path of least resistance," Pulay said. "Whenever there’s something closed, people find a way of finding their path of least resistance."
Pulay said a lot of drivers will likely find parallel paths based on where they live and work.
Ray Marsch, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation, visited area businesses on Wednesday to pass out brochures and to tell owners and managers about the imminent project.
"Any time we can get out and give these businesses a lot of notice, that's great," Marsch said. "[The businesses] seemed glad we were out there in advance letting them know of the closures."
Marsch visited with Anthony Stein, restaurant manager at Red Lobster.
"I know we get a lot of traffic coming from Akron, from Cleveland, using Route 8," Stein said. "With us being right off of the ramp, I'm sure [the planned work] might affect us slightly."
Stein said he would work with his general manager to create a plan to inform customers about the work.
Kelly Jones, general manager at Jet's Pizza on Hudson Drive, said she was not aware of the project when Gannett Inc. contacted her about it.
"[The project] might affect our deliveries a little bit, but we'll still be taking back roads," said Jones.
Steve Ranney, general manager at Silver Lake Country Club on Graham Road, estimated 25 percent of club members typically get on northbound Route 8 from Graham and noted the closure of that entrance ramp would mean those members' travel times to get home would increase by about five to 10 minutes.
"I think they'll live with it," said Ranney. "I don't think it's the end of the world."
On a personal note, Ranney said his commute from Silver Lake to his home in Mentor would be significantly affected by the closure of both the Graham Road and Steels Corners Road ramps getting onto northbound Route 8.
ODOT also is working with emergency personnel so that they can access Route 8 in case of emergency, Chesnic. He said first responders will be able to use gates set up along the highway, giving them access to what will be single lane roads for a 5-mile stretch.
Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said departments were meeting with ODOT on Thursday to get information and plans for any emergencies that might occur. He said the departments most affected would be Stow, Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson, with the project also impacting some of Boston Heights.
"All the departments will work together to help each other out," Davis said.
Clerk of Courts Amber Zibritosky said she would post the information on the Stow Municipal Court website www.stowmunicourt.com for those coming to the courthouse.
The entire project started in fall 2018 and is expected to be completed by summer 2022.
In 2021, work will move to the southbound lanes. In 2022, ODOT will put down final pavement and finishing touches.