By RICHARD F. BELISLE
7:32 PM EDT, April 21, 2011
The federal government is coming up with $4 million to build a long-awaited underpass beneath busy W.Va. 480 to ensure the safety of Shepherd University students and staff members crossing between the East and West campuses, officials said Thursday.
Currently, there is an open crosswalk where W.Va. 480 (North Duke Street) meets the road leading into the West Campus and Shepherd Grade Road a short distance north of the crosswalk. The underpass will be built north of the crosswalk.
A male student was seriously injured at the intersection when he attempted to cross outside the crosswalk during the 2010 spring semester, said Shelli Dronsfield, assistant to Shepherd University President Suzanne Shipley.
Dronsfield is coordinating the project with the West Virginia Division of Highways, which has approved the underpass.
Construction won’t begin until next spring, she said. It’s scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012, at about the same time as the scheduled completion of the new $12 million second phase of the university’s Contemporary Arts Center near the entrance to the West Campus.
Ground was broken last week for the 26,000-square-foot, three-story arts complex. The underpass exit will be close to the new arts center, Dronsfield said.
Once construction begins, it will create some inconvenience for students and motorists alike.
“It’s a very complicated project,” Shipley said.
W.Va. 480 will have to shift temporarily to accommodate construction, she said.
Vehicle traffic backs up in both directions during times when classes begin and end for the day, which usually coincides with morning and afternoon commuter traffic.
A guard directs pedestrian and vehicle traffic during peak pedestrian traffic times.
Motorists have complained that while the intersection is lighted at night it is still difficult to see students enter the crosswalk from both directions.
A pedestrian bridge over the road had been discussed, but it was decided to go with an underpass instead, Shipley said.
A bridge would have involved stairs and elevators with no guarantee that all students would use it all the time. Some would still opt to cross the road instead, she said.
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