The North Expressway Viaduct carries OH Route 8 and 59 over the Little Cuyahoga River and Elizabeth Park valley in Akron, Ohio.
1954 North Expressway Viaduct
By the 1940s, Akron emerged as the global rubber capital, producing half of the nation’s tires. 1 The rapid expansion of the trucking industry led to 19 trucking firms establishing headquarters in Akron, with 25 others operating terminals in the city, collectively transporting over 75 million pounds of freight daily.
The main northward road that connected Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, OH Route 8 (North Main Street/State Road), experienced heavy traffic of cars and trucks through residential areas. 1 Summit County Commissioners appointed Cleveland-based Wilbur Watson & Associates, the designers of the newly completed Little Cuyahoga River Bridge along OH Route 8, to design another bridge over the Little Cuyahoga River, five railroads, the disused Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal, and East North Street.
This new bridge would be part of the $8 million Akron Expressway, a proposed limited-access highway between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls. 5 It was the first leg in a $60 million expressway proposal for Akron.
Watson proposed a larger version of the existing North Main Street bridge, using a cantilevered Pratt deck truss design. This design was chosen for its cost-effectiveness, not requiring specialized construction methods or a high level of skilled labor, and its durability.
In October 1949, Akron secured the necessary right-of-way for the construction of the expressway and bridge. 6 In November, Wright Construction Company was awarded the $3 million contract for the bridge’s superstructure, subcontracting the steel erection to Weatherford Construction. 10
The Little Cuyahoga River bridge was slated for completion by November 15, 1951. 8 10 However, in 1950, despite the concrete piers being ready, construction halted as Wright Construction reported steel shipments were redirected to defense industries due to the Korean War. 7 Additionally, a crucial crane part required for lifting the steel was temporarily lost in transit. 10
It was only in March 1953 that sufficient steel, over 1,200 tons, was available to resume construction, with approximately 4,000 tons more pending. 10 Weatherford initiated work on the bridge’s south section, with the first piece of steel installed on March 25, 12 with work resuming on the north section in June. 9
Finally, after nine years of construction and setbacks, the Little Cuyahoga River bridge and 2½ miles of the new Akron Expressway were inaugurated on August 6, 1954, enabling uninterrupted travel from Perkins Street in Akron to East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue in Cuyahoga Falls. 11 12 Fifty-thousand people attended the dedication ceremony which included a mile-long parade, fireworks, and speeches, which included a ribbon cutting by Governor Lausche. 14
After the section of expressway opened to South Street, the state relocated OH Route 8 over the new road from East Market Street to Tallmadge Avenue. 13
The roadway deck was rehabilitated between March and October 1987. 16
2028 North Expressway Viaduct
Efforts to replace the deteriorating North Expressway Viaduct commenced in 2012 with Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) leading stakeholder meetings. 3 The project, initially estimated at $120 million, was introduced to the public in 2015 and 2016 with an anticipated start date in 2021.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the state to reallocate funds, causing project deficits. 2 3 Fortunately, ODOT managed to secure additional funding, although the cost rose to $157.6 million. 2
The project encompasses the construction of two new bridges, each with three lanes in both directions and an auxiliary lane for vehicles entering and exiting at Glenwood Avenue and Perkins Street. 2 15 Other features include delta-style bridge piers, distinctive lighting, fencing, and Corten steel, ensuring the structure harmonizes with its surroundings. 2 3
In March 2023, ODOT unveiled a revised timeline for the project, indicating work would commence in the fall of 2023 and completion expected by summer 2028. 3 A groundbreaking ceremony for the new bridges was held on August 11. 4
- State: Ohio
- Route: OH Route 8, OH Route 59
- Type: Pratt Deck Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 1,588'
- Main Span Length: 360'
- Spans: 210'×2, 480'
- Deck Width: 80'
- Fields, Mark P. Akron’s Singing Bridge. 13 Jul. 1995.
- “State Route 8 Bridge Replacement.” Ohio Department of Transportation.
- Conn, Jennifer. “ODOT to begin $150M Route 8 bridge replacement in Akron adding 2 bridges, more lanes, noise walls.” Spectrum News, 20 Mar. 2023.
- Michaels, Jim. “Groundbreaking Friday for New High Level Bridge in Akron.” 1480 WHBC, 11 Aug. 2023.
- “Okay Sought for Start of Expressway.” Akron Beacon Journal, 29 Oct. 1947, p. 21.
- Cole, Kenneth F. “Akron To Let Bids For New $3,000,000 Bridge In November.” Akron Beacon Journal, 24 Oct. 1949, p. 17.
- Cole, Kenneth F. and Thomas S. Haney. “City Highway Plan Moves – But Slowly.” Akron Beacon Journal, 9 Oct. 1953, p. 37.
- Cole, Kenneth F. “Lessens Load On Viaduct.” Akron Beacon Journal, 5 Aug. 1950, p. 9.
- “Open Bids Tuesday On Expressway.” Akron Beacon Journal, 1 Jun. 1953, p. 17.
- Cole, Kenneth F. “Steel’s Here – So What’s Delay Now?” Akron Beacon Journal, 15 Mar. 1953, p. 2.
- “Friday’s The Day! Expressway Opens.” Akron Beacon Journal, 1 Aug, 1954, p. 1.
- Sutliff, Ray C. “Akron’s ‘Oldest’ New Bridge Ready for Use at Last.” Akron Beacon Journal, 3 Aug. 1954, p. 6.
- “Partially-Built Super Road To Ease Jam.” Akron Beacon Journal, 4 Aug. 1954, p. 19.
- Cole, Kenneth F. “50,000 Open Akron’s Expressway.” Akron Beacon Journal, 7 Aug. 1954, pp. 1-2.
- “State Route 8 Bridge Replacement Project Informational Handout.” Ohio Department of Transportation, 10 May 2016.
- “Sigh of what’s down the road.” Akron Beacon Journal, 2 Mar. 1987, p. C3.