Summit County -- If state and federal authorities agree, state Route 8 south of Macedonia could be redesignated as a federal highway.
The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, Greater Akron's metropolitan planning organization, is proposing that the approximately 18-mile stretch from the Interstate 76/77 Central Interchange in Akron to Interstate 271 in Macedonia be redesignated Interstate 380, according to an Oct. 31, 2013, AMATS memo outlining the proposal.
AMATS Director Jason Segedy told the Stow Sentry Jan. 28 that the proposal was submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation in October.
"It's being mulled over down in Columbus and we expect to hear something in the next couple of weeks," he said.
The stretch of Route 8 subject to the proposal also includes the Interstate 80 interchange.
"The freeway deserves an interstate designation," states the memo, "due to its high volume of traffic and its functional importance as one of the region's most vital, best connected, and accessible roadways. Had state Route 8 been constructed exactly as it appears today (all at one time back in the 1960s) rather than in the piece-meal fashion that it was actually built in, it would have undoubtedly carried an interstate designation from the very beginning."
Advantages mentioned in the proposal include raising the road's profile with businesses, travelers looking for attractions, such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Blossom Music Center, and state and federal officials who are "charged" with allotting transportation funding.
"State Route's 8's redesignation as an interstate highway could potentially have a positive impact on federal funding levels for roadway maintenance and improvement," states the memo.
The "two basic paths" for gaining such a designation include administrative, for ODOT and AMATS to request the redesignation from the Federal Highway Administration, or congressional, requiring the support of congressional representatives whose districts include the corridor and an act of Congress. AMATS is currently following the first course.
Segedy said he believes that community officials along that portion of Route 8, as well as the general public, support the proposal.
"Anecdotally, it seems that the public feedback I've been getting has been pretty positive," he said. "It's one of those proposals that has no downside. There is no cost, other than the cost of changing the signage and in the grand scheme of things, that's pretty negligible."
Mayors like proposal
Stow Mayor Sara Drew said Jan. 27 that she believes that with three Route 8 interchanges -- at Graham, Steels Corners and Seasons roads -- the city's economic development efforts would benefit from the change.
Drew said this is because communities with interstate access are more likely to interest businesses that may not be aware that Route 8 is also a freeway.
"State Route 8 only means something to people who know what state Route 8 is," said Drew. "It's a low cost investment that could yield significant benefits."
Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said he has put his support in writing.
"I've actually written a letter of endorsement," said Walters, "because what that would do is take a lot of the maintenance out of our hands and the maintenance that we would perform would be reimbursed. It's huge for our city and we're definitely in favor of it. It would be a benefit to us because we would be reimbursed for all our costs."
Hudson Mayor William Currin said he supports the proposal for all the reasons mentioned in the memo.
"We feel it will benefit all of Northeast Ohio," said Currin. "We feel it will make both financial sense and economic sense."
Macedonia Mayor Don Kuchta said "I'm all for it."
He said he believes it will free up funds that AMATS currently provides for Route 8, redirecting it to the communities for projects, and that it will help current businesses as well as with economic development.
"It's about perception," said Kuchta. "I think AMATS is very, very smart for doing this."
Cuyahoga Falls News-Press Reporter Steve Wiandt contributed to this story.
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