Officials discuss I-80 widening

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State officials on Wednesday said a $116 million project to widen Interstate 80 was moved up more than a decade to help ease congestion.

Ohio Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday in Austintown the project will widen I-80 from four lanes to six on a six-mile stretch from state Route 11 to state Route 193.

ODOT District 4 Deputy Director Tony Urankar said Wednesday the project was originally slated to begin in 2027, but was moved up to 2015 because of new funding from bonds and increased tolls on the Ohio Turnpike.

Urankar said that stretch of highway gets the second highest percentage of truck traffic in the state. He said about 40 percent of the 60,000 vehicles that use the six-mile stretch daily are trucks.

“It does present some issues, so it will be easier to commute through and you’ll have a safer ride,” Urankar said.

John Getchey with Eastgate Regional Council of governments said the widening will be a good economic development tool especially with so many projects going on right now.

“We got a racino up there somewhere so that’s going to help. That V&M Star Steel with their truck loads going in or out. So, it’s going to do a lot,” said Getchey.

Local businessman John Cerni said development in the area over the past 15 years has led to more congestion than the road can handle.

“I am glad our state had the foresight to see the road does need widened,” said Cerni. “There is a lot of development going on in Austintown right now and this is already a highly traveled intersection.”

Walls will be installed near neighborhoods in Liberty, Niles and Austintown to reduce noise from the road.

Construction is expected to begin in the summer 2015 and will create 2,500 jobs.

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