Updated Tue, Jul 1, 2014 3:41 pm
An Ohio University road that has been at the center of a disagreement between the city of Athens and the university will open on a trial basis, according to an announcement made Tuesday.
A joint statement was issued by Mayor Paul Wiehl and OU President Roderick McDavis on Tuesday announcing plans for the temporary opening of Bobcat Lane, which will connect Baker University Center to Richland Avenue.
"The opening of Bobcat Lane will enable a new drop off/pick up site for public transit vehicles while improving access for campus visitors and emergency response services," the news release stated.
The agreement to open Bobcat Lane stems from a Memorandum of Understanding forged between the city of Athens and Ohio University in 2012. Ongoing conversations, coupled with recent studies of public transit and visitor parking, further prioritized the initiative, according to the news release. Wiehl also attributed the decision to open Bobcat Lane to the ongoing success of the GoBus intercity program.
“We are a victim of our own success, and the current configuration on campus does not adequately support the mission of inter-city transit,” Wiehl said. “By relocating the drop-off/pick-up location we hope that it will address both safety and health issues for the riders.”
“As Ohio University grows its transit system in partnership with the city and welcomes more visitors to campus, providing a safer option for accessing visitor parking areas, the GoBus and other public transit options is a shared priority,” McDavis said. “We have confidence that the opening of Bobcat Lane will serve to accomplish these goals — improving campus traffic flow, expanding regional mass transit services, and advancing the safety of our pedestrians.”
Bobcat Lane was constructed in 2008 following the opening of Baker University Center — OU's student union. The road runs from Oxbow Trail at Baker to Richland Avenue, but it was never opened to vehicular traffic. Former Athens Mayor Ric Abel had supported the road, however when Wiehl took office, he refused to grant the university a curb cut, citing safety concerns. The topic of Bobcat Lane has been brought up many times during annual Athens City Council luncheons with McDavis.
Under the terms of agreement, public transit and passenger vehicles will be permitted to access Baker Center lots via Bobcat Lane for six months. During this timeframe, campus and city officials will closely monitor the effects of Bobcat Lane on local traffic patterns and public safety. Access between Richland Avenue and Bobcat Lane will be limited to right-turning traffic. Commercial trucks, including delivery vehicles, will be prohibited from accessing the thoroughfare, according to the news release.
“We are deeply committed to the success of this experiment and sincerely appreciate the collaboration that has made this project possible on behalf of our community,” McDavis added.
On Tuesday, Wiehl told The Messenger that it's unclear at this time when the road will open to the public. He said the university still has some work to do on the road, and possibly in a utility tunnel below the street, before it can be opened.
"It will be up to their time and dollars," Wiehl said.