More than four decades of separation between the East and West campuses ended Monday afternoon with the dedication of a new pedestrian underpass that marries both campuses into one seamless university.
“The East and West campuses are gone,” University President Suzanne Shipley said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $5.65 million underpass.
“This is transformative,” Shipley said as she watched students, on the first day of the spring semester, walk through the tunnel connecting the old, historic East Campus, with its classroom and administration buildings and library, to the newer West Campus anchored by the university’s sports complex, Center for Contemporary Arts and student housing.
Planning for the underpass began in the fall of 2009 after years of discussions about the safety of students crossing between campuses on W.Va. 480 at its intersection with West Campus Drive. A crossing guard was posted at peak student and vehicle traffic hours, but the area was dimly lit at night. It was the scene of several nonfatal vehicle-pedestrian accidents over the years.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who spoke at the dedication ceremony, secured a $400,000 federal grant to start the project. What began as a move to correct an unsafe situation “turned into something that we now see as a necessity,” she said.
The original estimate of $4 million escalated to $5.65 million, mostly because engineers underestimated the amount of rock that had to be removed.
“There were a lot of issues,” said Dan Yanna, director of facilities management for Shepherd. “There were surprises in the amount and location of underground utilities — water, sewer and electrical lines that we had to deal with as we went along. And there was a lot of rock.”
The work required a temporary detour around the construction site through the Bavarian Inn property to Shepherd Grade Road. A temporary road was built to reconnect traffic off Shepherd Grade Road back to W.Va. 480.
The underpass was supposed to be finished in time for the start of the fall semester in late August but construction and weather delays moved it to Monday.
Richard Klein of Alpha Associates Inc. of Martinsburg, W.Va., was the engineer. He said the tunnel is 28 feet wide, 10 1/2 feet high and 56 feet long. The retaining wall on the east side of W.Va. 480 stretches almost 500 feet.
The tunnel’s bright white interior is painted with an anti-graffiti coating, Klein said.