UNC considers building bridge across South Road to help pedestrians
For the second time in the past three years, UNC administrators are considering building a nearly $10 million bridge over South Road to improve pedestrian safety.
But this year’s proposal is markedly different from the 2010 plan, which would have built a crossing between the Student Recreation Center and the Pit and was indefinitely delayed because of a lack of funding.
The new $9.5 million design, which would bridge the gap between the Genome Sciences Building and Caudill Laboratories, was presented to the Board of Trustees’ buildings and grounds committee last week and put on hold for further discussion.
“Everyone hated the design of (the 2010 plan), and we decided to hold off,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said at the meeting. “And when we came back to it, we decided that this bridge was more important, and I agree that it is.”
Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, said at the Wednesday meeting that all construction projects on campus since 2005 have been taxed, with the revenue accruing in a trust fund designated for pedestrian safety projects.
Buildings and grounds committee member Don Curtis said the new bridge project would use all the money in the pedestrian safety fund.
Runberg said both designs are still on the table, but the new project has taken priority.
“The bridge to the Pit is still a concept, but it’s been shelved for the moment,” Runberg said. “We currently don’t have funding for it.”
University architect Anna Wu presented the final design to the committee. Wu said the construction of the bridge would encourage connectivity between North and South campuses and would link the physical sciences buildings to the biological sciences and health affairs buildings.
Thorp said an estimated one million people cross South Road between the Genome Sciences Building and Kenan and Caudill laboratories each year.
He said increasing safety for those pedestrians is the main motive behind the plan.
“One million people a year won’t risk accidents if we build this bridge,” he said.
Thorp said this project would have a better effect on pedestrian safety than the original plan.
But sophomore Monica Lobo said she has a class in the Genome Sciences Building and doesn’t see the new bridge as a necessity.
“I don’t think it would be a smart allocation of school funds, because that crossing is not super dangerous,” Lobo said.
Sophomore biology major Danielle Girard said she thinks the bridge would be more convenient for both pedestrians and drivers.
“I don’t exactly feel unsafe crossing the road, but I do think that a pedestrian bridge would be much more efficient,” Girard said. “So many students and cars are trying to use the road at the same time that it’s just frustrating for everyone involved.”
In a 2010 report compiled by former Student Body President Jasmin Jones, about 90 percent of the 1,300 students surveyed said they were opposed to the construction of the bridge that would have spanned from the Pit to the Student Recreation Center near Stadium Drive.
Wade Hargrove, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said at Wednesday’s meeting that he wanted to look into whether the trust fund money must be used for the bridge project.
Hargrove said he has no doubt the bridge would improve safety on campus, but he is concerned about the allocation of resources at a time when finances are scarce.
“I don’t know what our future is, and I don’t hear rosy projections,” Hargrove said. “There are probably options that might be less expensive in the short term. I cannot vote for the expenditure of $10 million,” he said.
Hargrove said there have been ongoing requests for funding for smaller maintenance projects that have been deferred in the past due to lack of funding.
“(The bridge proposal) hasn’t been taken in balance with other needs on this campus at this time,” he said.
Phillip Clay, chairman of the buildings and grounds committee, said he understands the concerns of both sides.
After hearing comments from committee members, Clay said, the committee decided to postpone voting whether to approve the bridge.
“We will have the discussions, and we will bring it back just as soon as possible,” Clay said.
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