Major Construction Projects In Athens Slated For 2014

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This will be the year for probably the most anticipated construction project in the city of Athens in recent history — the rehabilitation of Richland Avenue.

According to Andy Stone, director of the Athens Department of Engineering and Public Works, the roughly $4 million project to improve Richland Avenue south of Dairy Lane should begin after Ohio University students leave Athens following graduation in mid-May. He said he hopes the project will be complete by Thanksgiving 2014.

The scope of the project will include widening Richland Avenue from Dairy Lane to Canterbury Drive to allow for bike lanes; building new curbs and sidewalks; replacing water lines, storm drains and natural gas lines; and giving the roadway a smooth asphalt finish. Stone said that decorative street lighting will likely be installed and the traffic signal near The Pedaler & The Packer will be updated. Some driveways to businesses on Richland Avenue will also be slightly modified for improved safety.

Stone said the logistics of the project will be tricky, as there are many underground utilities in the narrow right-of-way along the busy corridor. He said it’s the most complicated project dealing with coordination of utilities he’s dealt with during his time as the city engineer.

According to Stone, the city has obtained outside funding through the Ohio Department of Transportation to the tune of approximately $3 million. He said he hopes the project will cost less than $4 million. Stone anticipates that bids for construction will go out in March.

Two-way traffic is expected to be maintained during the construction, but Stone said he will allow for crews to do construction at night in order expedite the process while tackling the tricky utility reconfigurations. He said traffic could be limited to one-way during the nighttime hours.

Another major construction project the city will be undertaking in 2014 is the rehabilitation of West Union Street between Shafer and High Streets. The approximately $800,000 project will include water line replacement, paving and sidewalk and curb improvements. Stone said that there will also be modifications to the intersections of Depot and Union and Smith and Union.

“Those intersections have some odd geometry,” Stone said.

A left-turn-arrow light will be installed at the intersection of Shafer and Union.

Stone said the West Union Street project cannot begin until July 1 — the start of the state’s new fiscal year — due to state funds allocated for the construction.

Later in 2014, the city may embark on construction of a new bike path spur from the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway to Columbus Road. Stone said this project may begin in the late fall and that the city hopes to have it open by summer 2015. Stone said the city is still working for land easements and design for the project.

On the city’s east side, ODOT is funding a survey to study the East State Street/Route 33 interchange. Stone said there have been many traffic accidents along the heavily traveled commercial district. He said the study will aid the city and ODOT in finding an alternative solution to the problem area.

Stone added that East State Street will need repaved in the next few years and the Route 33 interchange modifications could be paired with the repaving for a substantial project in 2015 or 2016. He said that the debt acquired to pay for the widening of East State Street in the early 2000s will be paid off this summer.