Richland Avenue Tunnel Plans Unveiled

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Residents and City Officials view designs of the passageway

The City of Athens showcased two designs for the Richland Avenue pedestrian underpass on Tuesday at Grover Center during an open-house forum.

The forum offered area residents the chance to express concerns and to speak to those heading up the project. Athens City Engineer Andy Stone said the public feedback was important for the city to finalize designs.

The two proposed designs, “O” design (LEFT), “Brick” design (RIGHT)

The city unveiled two proposed designs for the structure: an “O” design, and a “Brick” design. The city said the underpass would be well-lit, would relieve traffic congestion and reduce incidents between vehicles and pedestrians.

Stone told the gathering the passageway shouldn’t be viewed as just a dark tunnel.

“For safety it needs to be bright,” he said. “It shouldn’t feel like you’re walking into a hole, it needs to feel like it’s just as bright as daytime when you walk in.”

Ohio University sophomore Saraya Abner said a tunnel would put her at ease when traveling to her classes.

“I know when I have to cross the street, cars have to stop for me and I know if people are coming behind me. It really doesn’t help with traffic flow and things get congested,” she said. “I think building the tunnel would help kind of ease the traffic flow.”

The design would both raise the road and depress the sidewalk through the tunnel. The project is estimated to cost $2.1 million, with most of the funding, $1.8 million, provided through a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

The Richland Avenue crosswalk, between West Green Drive and Bobcat Lane, is one of the busiest in the city of Athens. The crosswalk sees significant foot traffic, especially during class changes. This can cause small traffic jams for cars on Richland Avenue: 17,000 vehicles and 6,600 pedestrians use the crosswalk per day.

The city plans to build walls flanking the underpass to ensure that pedestrians don’t attempt to go around the passageway.

Andy Stone said the crosswalk has been a problem for as long as he can remember.

“This is the most talked about location in the city since I’ve worked here,” he said. “It’s been an issue since the 60’s when West Green was built.”

Construction on the project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.