New Roundabout On West Union To Help Improve Safety

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A roundabout is being built at the intersection of West Union and Smith Streets to improve pedestrian safety in the area.

Athens City engineer Andy Stone said that the roundabout is a part of the project that includes the construction on the intersections of West Union Street and Shafer and Depot streets.

“It’s primarily a waterline project,” Stone said before his bi-weekly construction progress meeting on Thursday. “The streetwork was . . . an addition since we were going to cause so much damage with the waterline anyway, we thought it would be a good time to solve some of the street problems, repaving, dealing with some of the crashes, fixing some of the curbs and sidewalks.”

Unlike the Richland Avenue roundabout, which was constructed to relieve traffic congestion, the one on West Union is intended to force drivers to slow down and become more aware of their surroundings in what Stone said is a pedestrian-heavy area. Likewise, the roundabout would make it easier for passengers to cross safely, since they would only have to look for traffic coming from one direction. Crosswalks will be painted on the northern, western and eastern legs of the roundabout.

“Personally, I know that all the people working in these offices use this little area a lot,” said Sierra Finnearty, an Ohio University students who works at the HDL center, said of West Union street. “Student-wise, I don’t see much traffic down here, but for the people working in the offices I’m sure it’ll be nice.”

Because this roundabout is single-lane, and smaller than the one on Richland Avenue, a truck apron – brick paving on the inner curve – will allow larger commercial vehicles to navigate the intersection.

Stone said that because of the success of the one on Richland Avenue, Athens is now more open to roundabouts.

In total, the West Union Street waterline and streetwork project costs $1.1 million dollars and is partially funded by a grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission.  Construction began on July 1, and Stone hopes to have the entire project completed by Ohio University’s homecoming on Oct. 11.