By Brianna Gleghorn
Orange and white traffic cones, detour signs and yellow construction vehicles lined Fifth Avenue as students return to Youngstown State University’s campus for the fall semester.
The avenue will remain open as it undergoes a waterline replacement project for the city of Youngstown. It will be completed by the end of September.
John Hyden, associate vice president of facilities maintenance, said students, faculty and staff should drive with caution while traveling through the construction.
“There’s going to be lane restrictions, and you’re going to have to weave through the cones,” Hyden said. “It’s going to take attention to details as you’re driving through there because otherwise you could get in a little bit of trouble.”
The construction will not impact any open parking lots or the deck around Fifth Avenue.
Hyden said the waterline replacement marks the beginning of a three-year project to six different roads in Youngstown, and Fifth Avenue is a focal point of the project.
According to Hyden, it will have less lanes, greener infrastructure and new traffic signals.
The city of Youngstown, YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College and community partners are financially supporting the reconstruction.
Hyden said the main goal is to reconstruct Fifth Avenue to replicate the past success of Wick Avenue’s construction.
“One of the things that we found when we had Wick Avenue closed for nearly two years was that people took alternate routes,” Hyden said. “Once Wick Avenue opened up, students must have been continuing to use the alternate routes because we haven’t had as much congestion.”
Charles Shasho, the city’s deputy director of public works, said having a solid underground structure is crucial when working on the waterline.
“We are going to be doing a complete rehab of the roadway,” Shasho said. “We don’t want to have to be digging it back up in a year because the waterline breaks. So, we want a nice underground structure as we finish the roadway up.”
Shasho hopes students and community members will remain patient throughout the construction.
“We just want everybody to be patient and expect a great project when this is all over,” Shasho said.
Richard White, director of planning and construction, said YSU and the city of Youngstown have worked well together over the course of the project.
“We have a pretty good relationship with the city of Youngstown,” White said. “They always help us out. We work together on a lot of projects.”
White suggests students take alternate routes on Belmont Avenue, Wick Avenue or the Westbound Service Road between the east grandstands and the Watson and Tressel Training Site.
White said the best time for projects are in the summer because there are fewer students and “it’s less disruptive.”
“What you really want to try to avoid is actually working where there’s a lot of people just because they have to walk through the construction and it’s noisy,” he said.
The total road reconstruction is expected to be complete by spring 2020.