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June 25, 2014

Sidewalk project underway, dates back to 2009

— A major sidewalk project — more than five years in the making — is now underway in Athens.

The sidewalk installation, known as the U.S. 31 Streetscape Project, is ongoing on Forrest Street, east of U.S. 31, to Lindsay Lane. The project is meant to give pedestrians access from one commercial area of the city to another commercial area — starting near U.S. 31 and ending near U.S. 72.

When it comes to the construction, city officials are warning drivers to expect delays and partial lane closures.

“Use alternate routes if possible,” Communications Specialist Holly Hollman said, adding the construction would impact traffic for a couple of months.

She said the sidewalk would be constructed from Publix on Lindsay Lane to the roundabout and down Forrest Street ending near Swan Creek.

The project is expected to be complete in about 90 days, according to Public Works Superintendent James Rich. Taz Morrell Engineering drew plans for the project and Powe General Contracting is conducting the work.

In 2009, the city of Athens received the initial approval for the project through a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation. The actual funds have not yet been received and, under the terms of the grant agreement, will be provided as construction progresses on a cost reimbursement basis.

The projected total cost including engineering is $501,150 and the maximum grant reimbursement is $307,780 leaving a total city investment of $193,370.

Several Athens residents are glad to see the sidewalk project. Others admit they don’t like the construction but believe, when it’s completed, the sidewalks will be worth the delays.

Tanjie Schrimsher lives about a mile from the Swan Creek Greenway. She often runs from her home to the Greenway.

“I know I would appreciate being able to get in those extra miles by running from home, to the Greenway and then accessing the Forrest Street sidewalk … and being able to run all the way to Publix and back,” Schrimsher said. “I don’t always use sidewalks for running, but I’d rather be on the sidewalk than the street, for safety.”

Amanda Romine said she is very excited about the sidewalk. “I think that it will make an improvement in my quality of life,” Romine said. “As it is now, I can only walk in my neighborhood or drive to another location to walk or run. This sidewalk will provide my family and me with a much wider area that can be covered via foot or bike.”

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