Back in 1974 ODOT, Akron and Kent had plans to construct a highway that would connect Akron and Kent — and beyond into the northern parts of Portage County.
Parts of the new highway were built — including the Inner Beltway in Akron and SR 261 in Kent — in expectation of more to come but after years of waiting, it became clear that time passed the idea by and both Akron and Kent are now looking to re-purpose those highway segments that ended up being the highways to nowhere in their communities.
Without the planned highway connections to the east or west, SR261 in Kent today is a whole-lotta-road without a whole-lotta traffic. That seems like that’s a good problem to have but it turns out that too much road can be just as bad as too little road.
Kent emergency personnel are all too familiar with what happens when a road is overbuilt for the traffic it carries.
Wide open highways inspire speeding and speeding leads to crashes — and they’re not your garden variety fender benders, these are high speed dangerous life threatening crashes.
SR261 has been on the region’s “most dangerous” list for years and as it became clear that the super-highway was never going to be built ODOT, Akron and Kent started to think about what they could do to redesign the highway to make it safer and fit better in the current context of the community.
Planning groups have been busy in both cities and Akron recently released an update on the status of their plans:
AKRON INNERBELT UPDATE – The ongoing $19 million project to improve the Akron Innerbelt was the topic of discussion at the Jan. 18 meeting of the AMATS Citizens Involvement Committee (CIC). Akron Planner Dylan Garritano briefed attendees on the status of the project, which is expected to be completed later this year. To view our latest video feature recapping this meeting, please click here.
Meanwhile in Kent we don’t have any fancy videos yet but a small group of local residents have been working with City staff and ODOT for months to come up with some options to remake SR261 into a road that better fits the needs of the community with an emphasis on bicycling and walking — with plenty of room left for driving.