Design work continuing on project to improve Stimson stretch

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Stimson Ave file pic

Stage two of the design engineering phase for the Stimson Avenue improvements project will require the city of Athens to appropriate additional funds.

The city has gathered input from stakeholders and community members to decide on one of several design alternatives, and is now ready to move forward with a more detailed design, city Service-Safety Director Andy Stone explained at an Athens City Council meeting on March 25.

According to the city’s website, the project will extend from the Stimson roundabout to State Street. “The purpose of the project is to improve safety, upgrade intersections, promote accessibility, update lighting, provide streetscape aesthetics, and replace city water, sewer, and storm infrastructure,” the website states. Design is expected to be completed this year, and construction is scheduled for 2020.

At this point, the city aims to increase the previously appropriated $200,000 for design engineering services to $630,000, as was introduced at the City Council meeting April 1. The original $200,000 already has been utilized for the first stage of the design process, so the city is allocating an additional $430,000 for the second phase, city officials have explained. All of those funds would come from the city’s Street Rehabilitation Fund.

“The project itself… would include the possibility of having some of the telephone (wires) on Stimson Avenue… placed underground,” council member Patrick McGee explained at the meeting earlier this month.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said last week that “there has been a large amount of community engagement in this particular Stimson Avenue project.”

 Stone explained at the March meeting that the city is expecting “about $2.5 million in external funds, and we have to commit 20%.” The city would need to provide about $500,000 “at least” for the project, he said.

“I anticipate the whole thing will be more than $3 million,” Stone said. “But I have not seen that final cost estimate… That’s for the full construction cost.”

Council member Sam Crowl said at the March meeting of the design alternative selected for the project: “The shared-use path is no longer part of this project, but… that’s really semantics.

“There will be a wider sidewalk, an 8-foot sidewalk, from East State Street to Cornwell, including a 4.5-foot buffer from the traffic lanes,” Crowl explained. “…While not technically a definition ‘shared-use path,’ that wider sidewalk with a buffer zone away from the traffic should allow more inexperienced bicyclists or children bicyclists to feel safe travelling down.”

Stone explained that a shared-use-path, by definition according to Ohio Department of Transportation guidelines, has to be 10 feet wide.

“We can’t fit a 10-foot-wide (path), plus there was some additional (public) feedback that something that wide might actually be problematic,” Stone said.

Sidewalks will be laid on both sides of the road, north and south, Crowl said at the March meeting, with the wider sidewalk on the south side of the road. “It should provide that accessibility, both for bicyclists, (mobility) issues, strollers,” Crowl said.