By RICHARD F. BELISLE
9:46 PM EDT, August 3, 2011
About 50 residents Wednesday learned when and how an underpass connecting both Shepherd University campuses under W.Va. 480 will be built starting in February.
The public meeting, at Shepherd's Reynolds Hall, was hosted by university officials and representatives of the firm designing the structure, West Virginia Division of Highways and the town.
During the school year, up to 1,500 students per day cross W.Va. 480 (North Duke Street) to get to the university's east and west campuses for classes, the physical education facilities, the arts center and the cafeteria, among other destinations, said Richard Staisloff, acting vice president for administration and finance and moderator of the meeting.
The crossing, which has a guard posted at peak student and vehicle traffic hours during mornings and evenings, is dimly lighted after dark.
Several students have been struck by vehicles, but there have been no fatalities.
Town and university officials have discussed the possibility of building a bridge over or an underpass under the crossing for years.
The project, which now has the go-ahead, will cost about $4 million in federal, state and university funds.
Construction will begin in February with changes to utilities and storm-water management systems.
The real work will begin in May with completion of the underpass slated for July, when there are few students on campus. A geotechnical study to determine if any blasting is needed will be finished in the next few months.
The underpass and reopening of W.Va. 480 will be done in time for the fall 2012 semester beginning in August.
A detour shifting traffic coming from the Potomac River bridge into town will begin on the road leading to the Bavarian Inn property. It will end at a new temporary intersection with Shepherd Grade Road.
Shepherd Grade traffic will cross West Campus Drive and connect back onto W.Va. 480 south of the construction site, according to sketches from Alpha Associates Inc. of Martinsburg, W.Va., the company designing the underpass.
The underpass, to be built slightly north of the current student crossing, will be 28 feet wide and 10 1/2 feet high.
W.Va. 480 will be raised to accommodate its height.
Pedestrians on their way to the West Campus will cross W. Va. 480 at its intersection with High Street during construction.
Residents of Shepherd Grade Road can avoid the construction by detouring through University Drive, which connects with W.Va. 45 and points west.
"This is the right project at the right time," Staisloff said.
It will improve safety for students as well as improve the flow of traffic, he said.
"It will benefit the university and the town," Staisloff said.
High Street resident Karene Motivans was one of two residents to raise the issue of increased danger to pedestrians crossing W.Va. 480 at High Street since traffic no longer will have to slow down or stop at the student crossing.
"It (W.Va. 480) will become a speedway," she said. "This intersection is the most dangerous one in town. It should be part of this plan."
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