The City of Athens is close to completing construction on a $1.4 million bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians — part of a $2.3 million initiative to improve the city's alternative transportation system.

The superstructure — or the framework supporting the load of the bridge — was constructed over the Hocking River during the weekend as part of a new bike spur that would extend from Columbus Road to Armitage Road. The spur is part of a long-term project to improve the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, which already spans more than 21 miles.

City Engineer Andy Stone said the construction is part of a citywide effort to connect every part of Athens by spurs on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. Stone said the bridge is near completion.

"It’s not open yet, so don’t try to cross it, you’ll fall in the river," Stone said.

Stone said the new bridge will be safe to walk on within a few weeks. The deck still needs to be poured to allow access to the bridge.

Stone added that the new bike path spur will provide new opportunities for the city as a whole.

"The end goal is to provide access to the Columbus Road area, which is somewhat divided from the rest of the community, mainly by the north hill," Stone said

Deputy City Auditor Laura Kreider said funding for project came from grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation and Clean Ohio.

Clean Ohio granted $500,000 for the project, and the Department of Transportation granted upward of $1.3 million. 

Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, said the bike path would provide easier transportation for cyclists and pedestrians around the city once completed.

“We had to put in the spur because there’s no way to get over the Hocking River across the Columbus Road area of town unless you went up the big hills,” Papai said. “It was just a way to connect another corridor of the city in a more efficient manner.”

Mayor Steve Patterson said the new bike path will create an easily accessible loop around the city, allowing cyclists to go around the entire city without having to turn around at the end of their route.

“It’ll make a nice addition to an already wonderful bike path,” he said.

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