By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Motorists trying to navigate through Bowling Green this summer have encountered many roadblocks – literally.
The downtown is torn up and lanes are shut down as Columbia Gas crews replace natural gas lines. A section of Thurstin was closed earlier this summer for BGSU to work on a utility tunnel. Alternating portions of Manville Avenue have been closed for repaving by the city. And several railroad crossings have been blocked for CSX work this summer.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm with Columbia Gas downtown, CSX at the tracks,” along with the city and university projects, said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green.
When the city notified residents last week that tree trimming on private property would close some spaces in a downtown city parking lot, a citizen responded on Facebook: “If they close any more streets and public spaces in this town, we all need to leave on vacation.”
Fawcett understands. “It’s not easy,” getting around some areas of the city this summer, he said.
“It isn’t a perfect situation,” Fawcett said. “But we don’t have a choice in the matter.”
The city has been issuing frequent notices about which streets and parking areas will be next on the closure list as the work continues.
“From the city’s perspective, we’re trying to get the information out so people know how to navigate the work zones,” Fawcett said.
All the work is necessary – and will result in a safer and better city for residents once it’s all complete, he said.
The gas line work is primarily on Main Street, from Clay Street to Ordway Avenue, but is also extending down some side streets, alleys and into parking lots.
The project is part of many upgrades being done to prevent problems with aging lines. The bare steel lines are being replaced with plastic pipes.
Initially, the Columbia Gas work was scheduled for 2019. However, since Bowling Green is planning major streetscape work in the downtown next summer, the gas line work was bumped ahead a year.
“We wanted them to get in and out before we pave the streets next year,” Fawcett said.
Raquel Colon, external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas of Ohio, said the downtown project which started in June will not be completed until sometime in October.
“We have brought some additional crews in to keep the progress moving,” Colon said on Wednesday.
The project is slow moving because there are 110 customers affected and so many individual lines that have to be replaced.
Columbia Gas crews are trying to be sensitive to motorists’ needs, Colon said.
“We try not to block any roads in their entirety,” she said. However, the workers need clear work zones to complete the project.
“There will still be areas where it slows down a bit,” Colon said.
The city is just trying to make the projects as painless as possible.
“From our perspective, we want to get them in and out as quickly as possible, so the impact to the citizens and the traveling public is as little as possible,” Fawcett said.