Athens receives grant to expand sidewalks, add pedestrian bridge on Elm Street

By: Holly Hollman

The City of Athens is receiving a $640,000 grant to expand sidewalks and add a pedestrian bridge on Elm Street to address safety concerns in that congested area.

Gov. Kay Ivey notified the city the funding is coming from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Elm Street, also known as the state highway Alabama 99, is a heavily traveled and serves residential, businesses and an industrial park. The City’s portion of the TAP project will be $160,000.

The project will start at the Elm Street and U.S 31 intersection and go west on Elm Street to Garett Drive. This includes an ADA compliant pedestrian bridge over Swan Creek. Currently, those who walk Elm Street to retail, recreational and educational facilities on U.S. 31 must walk in traffic without a dedicated pedestrian lane. The project will serve over 200 apartment units in that area, including students who walk to school, as well as clients at the Mental Health Center of North Alabama.

“This will help protect students who walk to Athens High and Athens Middle School, and will make it safer for residents who walk to nearby stores,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “After this project, we can then look for grant funding to continue south on U.S. 31 to connect with our sidewalk project that runs in front of Athens High to Pryor Street.”

According to Athens Police Department reports, there have been 152 accidents in this area of Elm Street since 2007, including a fatality involving a bicyclist in 2017.

“I appreciate the City and State for making this project a priority,” Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said. “This is definitely an area of concern because of heavy vehicle traffic and lack of safety measures for pedestrians.”

At its Nov. 23 meeting, the Athens City Council approved entering into an agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation on the project. Once the State directs the City to commence work on the project, the City will undergo the bidding process. Public Works Director James Rich said going through the design, bidding and construction process should take an estimated 36 months.

“On behalf of Athens, I want to thank Gov. Ivey and Alabama Department of Transportation for listening to our needs and working with us to enhance our City and make it safer for citizens,” Marks said.
By: Holly Hollman – City of Athens Communications Specialist