Home City City Council votes to move forward with Richland Avenue tunnel

City Council votes to move forward with Richland Avenue tunnel

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The proposed tunnel would run under Richland Avenue and cost $3 million. Photo by Connor Perrett.

While Athens City Council voted to move forward with plans to build a pedestrian tunnel on Ohio U’s campus, not all council members thought the decision was the best choice.

City Council passed an ordinance that authorizes the design and engineering of the Richland Pedestrian Improvements Project at their meeting Monday night.

Ordinance 0-107-17, which was proposed by council member Michele Papai, seeks to alleviate traffic on Richland Avenue by building a tunnel under Porter Hall that will cost up to $3 million.

Council member Patrick McGee stood alone in opposition to the resolution. Among his concerns, he claimed that the area in question only saw traffic in sporadic bursts, such as the time in between classes.  He also claimed that since the city is already spending money on policing, a police officer directing traffic could be a more cost-efficient solution.

“I am not saying it is a bad idea, but I am incredibly disappointed with the fact that the administration has apparently rejected any thought of pursuing an alternative experiment,” McGee said.

But according to council member Jeffrey Risner, staffing a full time police officer to regulate traffic would cost $90,000 a year, which he claims would make alternative methods ultimately more expensive than the proposed construction project.  

Council member Peter Kotses also expressed uncertainty towards the viability of proposed alternatives.

According to Kotses, Ohio University is also interested in seeing completion of the project.  However, it has not committed any funding towards the project.

According to the resolution, the Ohio Department of Transportation awarded grants to pay for up to 95 percent of the total costs of the project. The funds appropriated for the design and engineering of the project are a separate appropriation.

Ordinance 116-17 was also passed, which is an ordinance that allows the mayor to join a class action lawsuit to initiate litigation to challenge the constitutionality of amendments to chapter 718 of the Ohio Revised Code, which relates to municipal income tax.  This ordinance was proposed by all members of council.

Papai denounced the amendments as “draconian.”

“We wouldn’t be able to get any of our taxes from them if we do the ordinances and do the things they want us to do,” Papai said.

“That’s very unconstitutional.”

The deadline to join the class-action lawsuit with other municipalities is Nov. 1.

The city also appropriated funds for a pumper truck for the Athens Fire Department.  The pumper truck and related equipment is expected the city to cost $423,411 worth of notes.  The notes to pay for the truck are due the following week.

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