Starting today, the Ohio Department of Transportation will take the first steps toward closing Akron’s Innerbelt, a years-long project that supporters say will reunite the city.
The intersection of Main, Howard and Perkins Streets and Martin Luther King Boulevard downtown – the mouth of the Innerbelt -- will be closed until this summer for the project. Traffic will be re-routed along roads parallel to the expressway.
John Moore, Akron’s public service director, says that intersection has the highest crash rates in the area, and the project that begins today will make it much safer.
“We’re going to lower it by three feet. It’s a safety issue. And to do that, we’re going to separate the sewers. It’s an ODOT project, part of the Innerbelt that we’re closing. There’s some Ohio Edison duct bank that has to be moved, and sewer work in that intersection. So it’s going to be closed for five months.”
Moore says there is no rush to complete the many projects that need to happen before the final decommissioning of the Innerbelt, but he says that’s likely to happen in the next two years.
The city has called it the Oak Park Renewal Project, saying it will reconnect downtown to the historic Oak Park neighborhood around Glendale Cemetery.
Chris Ludle with the city’s Public Works Department says it will make that intersection both safer and more attractive.
“Certainly it will be a better vista, but also they will have better access to the Towpath. Generally, the area’s going to be beautified in terms of re-planting of trees a ... and potential for all kinds of things to occur down in the Innerbelt; change from a concrete jungle to a pretty nice area.”
City officials say the land might eventually be used as green space. Information on the project – as well as the new detours that will be in-place until summer – is available at DriveAkron.com.