Public Works: Richland Underpass Needs More Money, Time

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ATHENS (WOUB) — The Richland Avenue Pedestrian Passageway, scheduled to be built this summer, is going to take two months longer and cost about $400,000 more to be built, city officials say.

Robert Heady, Director of Public Works for the city of Athens, asked City Council at Monday’s regular meeting if the budget for the project could be increased from $2,599,814 to $2,999,994, and that the time allotted for the job be increased from 90 days to 147 days.

These changes were made after several contracting companies told Heady the job could not be done in 90 days. Heady said 147 days still demands a lot from a construction crew.

“Some of the bidders are talking about having to do 6 day work weeks and double shifts to get the job done,” Heady said.

Mayor Steve Patterson said big summer projects in Athens have always been a challenge for Public Works due to the need to get construction done before Ohio University classes begin.

“We’re seeing a lot of contractors looking at it going, ‘we have no guarantee we can squeeze a project in from the breaking of the ground after graduation and finishing by the time students come back to move in.'”

The original timeline for the project was scheduled to be from May 6 to August 4. Now, the end date has been pushed back to September 30, according to Heady. This means construction will go on during the start of the 2019-2020 school year and during two home Ohio football games.

Drivers will be detoured to Union Street and down Shafer Street during this 135-day road closure. Heady said he will be working with Ohio University to “handle” road closures and traffic during the two football games.

Part of the construction for the passageway will also overlap with construction that is planned to be done on the Richland Avenue bridge across from the Cop-n-Shop Drive Thru. Patterson said the roads by the bridge will be signalized and only one side of the road will be closed at at time.

Heady hopes to get money from the Ohio Department Of Transportation, the city of Athens, and Ohio University to fund this 12-percent increase in costs before the new bid for contractors opens up on February 21. The bid must close by March 4 in order for the project to stay on schedule.

“We’ve had this discussion ad nauseam and this is a de-conflicting feature on Richland Avenue that is much needed,”Patterson said, ” and once it’s done it’s done.”

To see what the comprehensive plan is for Richland Ave. visit the City of Athens Youtube page.