Thursday, November 6, 2008

OU vs. Athens City: The Road to Nowhere

Ryan Scarpino

If you are walking around the West Green area, somewhere between Grover Center and the Baker Center, you might have noticed bulldozers, barriers and a lot of fluorescent orange fencing. For more than a year, construction crews have been remodeling Porter Hall, and just recently, OU decided to demolish the Anderson Labs, which would create more space for another road to Baker Center.

OU can build anything it wants on its campus including a road called Bobcat Lane; however, the road cannot attach to a city street. OU officials wanted Bobcat Lane to connect to Richland Avenue, but did not ask the city for permission. Athens MidDay made repeated attempts to contact the officials in charge of the project at OU, but none of our calls or emails were returned.

At his news conference Wednesday, Mayor Paul Wiehl said, “We have denied a curb cut. It's stuck right there. Nothing's going to happen right now. Again, I look at is as an unsafe entrance and intersection that is in the making. And therefore I have problems with it. So there's a lot of questions. As it stands now, I'm not into approving it.”

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl

Richland Avenue is one of the busiest roads in Athens. It connects major highways to the OU campus, it runs directly through West Green and it is constantly heavy with traffic of student walkers and drivers. There are multiple crosswalks for pedestrians, and just recently, a bike lane was added. And because of the city's uncertainty about safety, the construction of Bobcat Lane has been stalled.

Construction crews are still working on parking lots and are cleaning up all the renovations done to Porter Hall. But right now, they cannot do anything to Bobcat Lane. And all the construction is becoming an inconvenience. There is only one lane traffic on Oxbow Trail behind Baker Center, which affects those going to the Baker Center garage. And students walking to and from West Green have to find different ways to get to other parts of campus because of the construction barriers.

Matt Proctor, a Junior Engineering major, said, “Mostly I just took alternative routes. Went up, went back up Richland and cut across that way instead of going back past it.” Proctor, like many engineering students, spends most of his time in Stocker Hall located on West Green. Stocker Hall is a long walk for anyone not living on West Green, and that walk is now longer because of Bobcat Lane.

Junior Engineering Major Matt Prcotor

There is no timetable to when or if Bobcat Lane will be completed. Until Mayor Wiehl and the city find out all the details about traffic and are convinced the road could connect to Richland Ave. safely, Bobcat Lane will continue to be a road to nowhere.

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