Construction is set to begin on a $4 million pedestrian walkway across College Avenue that will connect MU’s Bingham Group residence halls to the Virginia Avenue housing and dining development.
A groundbreaking ceremony, hosted by MU Residential Life and Campus Dining Facilities, will be at 3 p.m. today, starting in the Bingham Connection Dining Facility. Official groundbreaking will happen across from the Schurz Hall entry drive.
Actual construction will begin in mid-December and be completed by next August, said Phil Shocklee, associate director of MU Campus Facilities.
“We will award a contract for the work within the next few days,” Shocklee said. “The apparent lowest bidder is Clayco Construction Co. from St. Louis.”
Pedestrian safety is a major reason for building the bridge, Shocklee said.
In 2002, the MU Police Department recorded 13 vehicle-pedestrian accidents, up from nine in 2001. MUPD also issued 60 citations in 2002 for failure to yield at a crosswalk, up from just two in 2001. No statistics were immediately available for 2003.
Though pedestrian safety has always been a concern, construction of the new Virginia Avenue housing and dining center makes the pedestrian bridge necessary, said Harriett Green-Sappington, assistant director for the Residential Life Master Plan.
“The biggest factor at this point is that the construction of the Virginia Avenue facility will necessitate closing of Bingham Connection, so Hatch and Schurz residents will have to cross the street to the dining hall,” Green-Sappington said. “Many students at the Virginia halls will travel back and forth as well.”
The project will involve a lot of other work besides the bridge itself, Shocklee said.
“There will be construction of ramps and sidewalks, and we will have to relocate utilities along the east side of College Avenue,” he said. “The drive in front of Hatch back to Buck’s Ice Cream will be relocated to Rollins Street.”
Funding for the project will come from Campus Dining and Residential Life Reserves. The bridge will feature a metal roof, security lights and mesh siding to prevent pedestrians from hurling objects over the edge.
The bridge will also serve the new College Avenue housing project, to be built adjacent to the east end of the bridge and just northwest of Hatch Hall. Completion of the new housing is targeted for the fall of 2006. Students living there will also need to cross the new bridge to eat at the Virginia Avenue dining facility.
Students usually jaywalk in front of the Bingham group when crossing College Avenue, Green-Sappington said.
According to a 2001 study by MU Residential Life, 69 percent of those that cross College Avenue do not use the designated crosswalks.
University officials estimate 500 people per hour cross College Avenue in the area. A 2002 analysis showed that 2,750 students crossed between 9:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
Brendan Murphy, an MU sophomore who lives in Cramer Hall, crosses College Avenue “almost daily” to eat at Bingham. Murphy said he would definitely use a bridge if one were available.
“The crosswalks are too far out of the way, so the pedestrian bridge is a good idea because the safety of students is compromised when they cross the street there,” he said. “Something needs to be there, because the way it’s set up now is not a safe situation.”