After months of construction, road closures and blockages, the Stimson Avenue improvement project is nearing completion.
The project is currently in phase two, which consists of construction on the south half of the road. Since mid-August, only one lane of westbound traffic has been accessible, with eastbound traffic detoured to East State Street. The end of phase two is slated for November, according to the city’s published schedule.
Though paving efforts have been delayed due to weather constraints, the project contractor, Trucco Construction, is expecting to complete paving next week, weather permitting. Once paving is completed, work on sidewalks, driveways and pavement markings will commence before the road fully opens, Jessica Adine, assistant city engineer, said. The city is currently working with the contractor to determine when that may be.
Phase 1 of the project took place from March to mid-August and focused on the construction of the north end of the street. Earlier in the year, pre-phases centered on intersections and utility installation.
The comprehensive street project to update the crucial Athens roadway was first discussed by Athens City Council in spring 2020, approving a timeline and budget for the project.
According to a previous Post report, the rehabilitation costs amount to over $7 million, which is funded largely through grants and loans. The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Ohio Small Cities Grant contributes $2 million, in addition to $400,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission Loan Fund and a $5 million loan from the Ohio Department of Transportation. That loan will be repaid from the city’s Street Rehabilitation Fund over the next 20 years, according to the report.
Construction began in January 2021 to replace city-owned utilities, install decorative lighting, upgrade traffic signals, replace curbs and sidewalks and install higher-visibility crosswalks with a new concrete roadway.
Overall, the project’s purpose is to improve safety and promote accessibility in one of the city’s important arterial passageways, Adine said. The corridor’s last updates were completed in the 1970s.
Though infrastructure pieces will be completed toward the end of 2021, beautification elements, including landscaping, will be installed in spring 2022, Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said. The completed roadway will also include a median between the two lanes of traffic from Elliot Street to Grant Street, according to a drawing of the project.
Throughout the project, access to businesses has been maintained, though the city has faced a few challenges as well, namely with regards to infrastructure underground. Adine said several underground conflicts had to be resolved before underground utility installation could be completed. She also described the underground utilities installation as a contributing factor to the length of the project.