Athens City Council members discussed on Monday night improvements to Richland Avenue that could add a tunnel beneath the road between Porter Hall and West Green.

The improvements, which are projected to cost more than $1 million, would include an underpass near where the current crosswalk is. Council members said congestion in the area created the need for the improvements.

“That area is more than a little congested,” Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, said. “It’s just a mess. It’s a dangerous place, and it really needs fixed. There will be some costs, but running over students, that’s costly too.”

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who used to be an associate professor of psychology at OU, said he was in his office in Porter Hall during two incidents in which students were injured in collisions with vehicles. In one of the instances, Patterson said, the student’s future was ruined.

“Because of that incident, (the student’s career) was taken away,” Patterson said. “How can you place a price tag on someone’s life?”

Patterson said an estimated 1,300 students use the crosswalk per hour, and 7,000 vehicles pass through the area each day.

Councilman Pat McGee, I-At Large, said Athens would pay only $350,000 to $400,000 of the total cost for the project, with the rest provided by grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation. McGee said he would like the city to explore alternatives during the design phase of the project.

Council members also discussed improvements to the city’s water treatment plant, which Councilman Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said the total costs for the improvements would be $5,064,460.

“It’s an effort to continue to upgrade our aging infrastructure,” Butler said. 

The project would be paid for through increased water costs in the City of Athens, as well as a 20-year loan from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a previous Post report.

@leckronebennett

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