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City Council proposes increase in cost for pedestrian passageway project

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Athens City Council discussed an increase in costs to a contingency plan within the Richland Avenue pedestrian passageway project at their meeting Monday night.

The goal of the project is to increase safety for the pedestrian crossing at Richland Avenue near Porter Hall by installing a separate pedestrian walkway below the heavily-trafficked road. It’s currently set to cost a total of $3.93 million if the contingency plan increase is approved. 

The proposed increase in the contingency plan is because of the adjusted and extended timeline of the project. Construction was initially set to take place on Richland Avenue from May 2019, through August 2019 but was delayed.

The city is only paying about 37% of that total cost, however, according to Councilmember Peter Kotses. Ohio University will pay for 16% of the project, and the remainder will come from various grants. 

Construction is scheduled to begin March 2, 2020. That portion of Richland Avenue is set close for the duration of construction and is expected to officially reopen to vehicular traffic on Sept. 11, 2020. But Kotses said he believes the walkway portion may be open by the time Ohio U students return to campus in late August for fall semester.

“There will be some noise,” Kotses said in regard to the construction. “But, I think we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I think it’s going to be a good solution for probably the stickiest intersection that we currently have in the city.”

Kotses said issues with the safety of crossing Richland Avenue at that intersection have been around for a long time, too. 

“Somebody found a news article from 1968 talking about this problem,” Kotses said. “We’ll be closing in on two generations that have identified that this is something we need to fix.”

Mayor Steve Patterson said that the city explored multiple options to make it safer for pedestrians to cross Richland Avenue before settling on the current plan.

“My office used to be in 247 Porter Hall, looking right down on the crosswalk,” Patterson said. “I was there during two different, particularly bad, accidents.”

The council also approved an ordinance for a project to construct a sidewalk on the right side of Grant Street, near Morris Avenue. 

The $194,000 project is fully funded by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) through the Safe Routes to School Program and is left over from 2016 ODOT funds granted to the city.

Safe Routes to School aims to “enable students in grades K-8 to walk or ride their bicycle to school.”

In other business:

  • The council unanimously passed a resolution that supports the National League of Cities’ “Leading Together” agenda for the 2020 presidential election.
  • The body approved Wendy McVicker as the new Athens City poet laureate.
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