Downtown Work Update for the week of Sept. 7-11

Improvements to the downtown district continue this week with the Wastewater Department doing sewer line installation.

Crews will close the southbound lane of South Jefferson Street between Market and Green streets on Wednesday, Sept. 9, starting at 7 a.m. This lane will remain closed for about four hours. Also, crews will close the intersection of Washington and Jefferson streets for three hours starting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Emergency traffic will be allowed access. If traffic becomes too dangerous for crews, the Wastewater Department will close both lanes.

The sewer installation work will continue on Thursday, Sept. 10, and Friday, Sept. 11, when crews will close the southbound lane of South Jefferson Street between Green and Washington streets.

Sewer installation is one of several downtown projects underway to improve this retail, tourist, and historic destination. Sewer work began in 2014 when the city contracted with Hawkins Groundwork for $587,412 to replace clay sewer lines, some 100 years old and older. This is being done to improve capacity and help prevent overflows and leaks, which occur as the clay pipes crack or fail.

Another project is improved electrical service for the Limestone County Courthouse. The Limestone County Commission’s renovation of the courthouse began in 2012 and required new electrical work. Athens Utilities currently is running the electrical underground to the courthouse. The new electrical work will serve expanded courthouse facilities, such as additional courtrooms, as well as electrical cabinets for use by vendors during events on The Square. 

A third project underway downtown is the ATRIP grant project for Washington Street. In 2013, the City of Athens received $736,000 from the ATRIP grant program for a $920,000 project to resurface and improve Washington Street from Hoffman Street to U.S. 72, which includes the section through downtown Athens.  The Limestone County Commission is funding its portion of the road, which is $26,000, with the city funding the remainder. 

The Public Works Department currently is building islands on Washington Street in preparation for the ATRIP paving project. This is to improve handicap accessibility and pedestrian safety by installing ADA compliant sidewalks and signalized crossings to the courthouse. Pedestrians, including those in wheelchairs, must now cross in the middle of the streets through traffic without the aid of signals. Crews plan to complete this work in October, weather permitting. The city will work with the Alabama Department of Transportation to schedule paving this portion of Washington Street in February after the Christmas shopping season.

The fourth project will not begin until next year but will complement the Washington Street project. The city received a $391,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant this year to enhance pedestrian safety and install ADA compliant features. The city’s portion is $97,750. The project, which could take up to two years, will include sidewalk improvements, signalized crossings to the courthouse, energy efficient lighting and streetscape enhancements. The Limestone County Commission plans to install the same energy efficient lighting around the courthouse.

The Spirit of Athens, Athens-Limestone Tourism Association and Athens Rotary have each committed $15,000 for a total of $45,000 toward the city’s TAP project and the county’s electrical cabinets/lighting project. 

The City of Athens and Athens Utilities are working with Spirit of Athens to keep downtown merchants and citizens informed about street closures and construction work. This is being done through social media, news media and Spirit of Athens’ direct contact with merchants.

“This is a disruption for merchants and those who shop and do business downtown,” said City of Athens spokesperson Holly Hollman. “However, this will provide a safer experience downtown, especially for our citizens with physical handicaps, and it will allow us to meet the electrical needs for those who use The Square for events such as Singing on The Square and Athens Grease Festival.”

Citizen Anita Raby said she is appreciative of the improvements since she has difficulty walking.

“I am much more appreciative of handicap accessible facilities since I have difficulty walking,” Raby said. “The beautification improvements will also be a nice addition to downtown. I appreciate the work being done to make our downtown enjoyable by all citizens.”

 


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