It wasn’t uncommon for Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl to voice qualms about the idea of Ohio University opening up its own private drive onto Richland Avenue during his time in office.
“It’s been in contention for at least seven years,” Wiehl said. “It would be unsafe.”
And, though Bobcat Lane is only on month two of a six-month trial period, early concerns with the safety of the road are still surfacing.
During the tail end of finals week, the Ohio University Police Department issued 17 traffic citations to drivers making illegal left turns in or out of Bobcat Lane, according to the Ohio University Police Department call log. Eight of those citations were issued on Thursday alone.
“Left turns in and out of the intersection create a safety risk due to the limited sight distances to and from the intersection, heavy pedestrian crossings in the area and traffic volume,” OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said in an email.
Wiehl said drivers turning into oncoming traffic are his main concern.
“We tried to design it to make it inconvenient to turn left,” Wiehl said.
Though the project fell mostly on the shoulders of the university because Bobcat Lane is a private drive, the city had some say in the project because it had to make a curb cut onto Richland Avenue, Wiehl said.
“It will just have to be brought up in conversation about what to do about it,” Wiehl said, adding that conversation would fall to Mayor-elect Steve Patterson.
Patterson, who is currently an at-large Athens city councilman, will be holding the position of mayor when the trial period for the private drive is up and discussions of how to proceed begin.
“I have significant concerns,” Patterson said. “There’s going to have to be some corrective action.”
Patterson said during one lunch period in Baker Center’s West 82 Food Court, he watched drivers tackle the new route.
“In the course of 38 minutes, I tallied 14 violations in that short span of time,” he said.
Adding a median on Richland Avenue might help alleviate the number of illegal left turns, Patterson said.
While that is a possible solution, Patterson said there will need to be a “high level of continual education,” considering the large, transient population of students moving in and out of OU.
Patterson added that the area will probably be well-monitored by law enforcement officials in the future.
“Bobcat Lane is currently a priority traffic enforcement area for us,” Ryan said in an email.