New Regional Infrastructure Plan
The Greater Akron area’s transportation infrastructure took a huge step to the year 2045. During a May 20 virtual meeting, the AMATS Policy Committee unanimously approved Transportation Outlook 2045, a nearly $8 billion long-range transportation plan for the region.
As the area’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization, AMATS prepares and updates the region’s long-range transportation plan every four years. Transportation Outlook 2045 identifies regional transportation needs and presents funding recommendations for highway, public transportation, bike and pedestrian projects.
AMATS Director Curtis Baker says that the new plan recommends more than $7.7 billion in funding to meet identified needs over the next 24 years. “More than $5.3 billion of these funds are for our region’s highways. This total includes over $4.7 billion for preservation of the existing system, which is our primary focus rather than expansion,” Baker adds.
While system preservation is a priority in the new plan, it does include $419 million for freeway recommendations and $350 million for specific roadway projects. Among the long-term highway recommendations in the plan are a more than $146 million bridge replacement project on state Route 8, between the Perkins Street and Glenwood Avenue interchanges, and a $133.5 million improvement project on Interstate 77, between Ghent Road and Interstate 80 (Ohio Turnpike).
Notable road projects in the plan include a nearly $22 million reconstruction of Arlington Road, from Waterloo Road to East Market Street, in Akron and a more than $13.4 million improvement project at the Barney’s Busy Corners intersection in Cuyahoga Falls. One unique project in Portage County is a $10 million “road diet” on state Route 261 in Kent. The “road diet” will rededicate a portion of the four-lane divided route spanning from Cherry Street to Kent-Ravenna Road (state Route 59) to a shared-use path to promote cycling.
Baker notes that Transportation Outlook 2045 addresses other regional needs beyond area freeways and roadways. The plan includes nearly $2.4 billion for public transit systems in Portage and Summit counties and $35 million for various bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the region.
The bulk of the plan’s public transit funds – $2 billion – will be used for general operating expenses by the area’s two regional transit authorities (RTAs), the Portage Area RTA in Portage County and METRO in Summit County. Another $250 million will be used by the authorities to preserve their existing bus fleets and approximately $68 million will be used to expand the region’s public transit systems.
Among the plan’s more ambitious public transit recommendations is its call for the area’s RTAs to pursue bus rapid transit (BRT) and Microtransit services. BRT service provides dedicated transit routes with higher speeds, shortened wait times, and improved reliability. Currently, METRO is studying several potential corridors for BRT service and is working to identify a priority corridor for such service. Microtransit is a demand-response type service with integrated web applications that provide flexibility for riders where traditional fixed-route transit service isn’t warranted. Baker says that PARTA is considering microtransit service to rural areas of Portage County in which regular line service is unavailable.
The plan continues AMATS’ efforts to promote active transportation such as biking and walking through expansion of the region’s bike and hike trail and sidewalk networks. The plan recommends: more than $8 million to construct the Rubber City Heritage Trail in Akron; more than $7 million to construct the Veterans Trail in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Silver Lake and Stow; nearly $8 million to construct the Headwaters Trail in Aurora and Mantua Township; and $6.5 million to construct the Heartland Trail in Chippewa Township and the Village of Clinton.
More than $10.2 million is recommended for sidewalk improvements in the communities of Hudson, Norton, Richfield, Stow and Twinsburg. Tallmadge will receive $1 million for the construction of a pedestrian tunnel between West Avenue and Northwest Avenue to the center of Tallmadge Circle.
If you would like to learn more about the Greater Akron area’s long-range regional transportation plan, Transportation Outlook 2045 is available by clicking here.