By Lee Murray
The Ohio Department of Transportation said Wednesday that the $116 million road-widening project on Interstate 80 will create jobs and tax revenue for the cities and townships where the work is taking place.
“Part of our mission at ODOT is to improve safety, reduce congestion, and continue to improve our state’s economy,” ODOT District 4 Deputy Director Anthony Urankar said. “Right here, right on this project, we’re talking close to 2,400 construction- related jobs.”
The project, which was slated for 2027, will be moved up to 2015 because of new funds from the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan. ODOT estimates construction to be com- pleted by October 2017.
After contracts are awarded in April 2015, work will begin to widen six miles of I-80 between the Interstate 680 interchange in Austintown to the Belmont Avenue exit in Liberty. Additional lanes will be added both ways to ease congestion and improve safety. Four bridges along the route will be widened, too.
Average daily traffic along this stretch of I-80 is between 56,000 and 64,000 vehicles. ODOT District 4 Deputy Director Anthony Urankar said that the route experiences the second-highest percentage of truck traffic in Ohio.
“Forty percent of the vehicles on this stretch are trucks,” Urankar said. “This project is well needed here.”
Urankar said that the Jobs and Transportation Plan, headed by Gov. John Kasich, was instrumental in moving the date forward. The six-year plan uses state, local and federal money, as well as revenue from the Ohio Turnpike, to fund 41 road construction and improvement projects throughout Ohio.
“Due to the governor’s innovative thinking with funding transportation, we’re adding in close to $3 billion within the next six years on major new capacity projects throughout Ohio,” Urankar said.
This work is the only project in the plan that affects Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Tom Humphries, CEO of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, said that improved access to the road will aid economic development in the Valley.
“We look at orange barrels as growth, not as problems,” said Humphries. “Yes, it slows traffic down a little bit, but it sure helps us in our growth, jobs, and opportunities.”
There will be some delays during construction, and the work will affect communities that are located immediately adjacent to I-80. Urankar said that the residents of Girard and Austintown who will be most affected by the road work have already been consulted. ODOT will construct walls between I-80 and residential properties to abate road noise.
“We’ve already reached out to the community and had community involvement with the noise walls,” Urankar said.
John Picuri, ODOT District 4 project manager, said that noise walls will be constructed sometime during the middle phase of the project.
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