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The Daily Tar Heel

Part of Manning Drive to close on weekends for construction

Closure follows bridge project

Photo: Part of Manning Drive to close on weekends for construction; (Jessie Lowe)
The dental school overpass is under construction and will be part of the new dental school building. The construction affects traffic on Manning Drive. Construction workers direct the traffic on Manning Drive and S. Columbia Street while the work is taking place.

For at least 13 upcoming weekends, the portion of Manning Drive between West Drive and South Columbia Street will be closed off due to the construction of a new pedestrian bridge for the new Dental Sciences Building.

The road’s closure, which began Friday, is scheduled to end July 10, with each closure lasting from 8 p.m. on Fridays to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Slated for completion by early next year, the project, which has received more than $100 million in funding from the state and University, will add a 216,000 square foot research and administrative center to the School of Dentistry.

Those involved in the project said it will help ease transportation within the school and will also improve pedestrian and vehicle safety.

Between 2005 and 2009, more than 200 car accidents occurred on Manning Drive near UNC Hospitals — at least 100 more than any other road nearby.

Campus safety officials have said the area is one of the most dangerous on campus.

Al Elsenrath, director of support services, said fatal accidents occurred before the construction plans for the bridge began.

“It reinforced the belief that it was definitely needed,” Elsenrath said of safety precautions. “But it didn’t speed up the process or add any money.”

Lindsey Rose, a construction manager for the department of construction management, said the period of March through July 2011 was selected because it was the most convenient time for construction without affecting the hospitals and fire department, among other units.

“It’s only for weekend shutdowns — we did this for Christmas break,” Rose said. “Campus is a lot less populated at that time. I know this is an inconvenience.”

In past construction-related street closures, there haven’t been many complaints, said Roy Cox, construction liaison for public safety.

Cox said closing the portion of Manning Drive beyond the 13-weekend timeline will depend on the contractor’s progress.

Elsenrath said another feature of the bridge will be an elevator and stairs from the elevated plaza on the Thurston Bowles Building side to street level.

Sophomore biology major Lauren Clouse said the bridge will prove to be worthwhile for the overall campus and community, but it could prove annoying for those used to driving on Manning Drive.

“I guess you could go all the way through campus. It seems a little inconvenient,” she said.

For the next few months, Chapel Hill Transit will detour routes for many buses, including the FCX, NU, D and V. To remove some of the inconvenience, Manning Drive will stay open for the Tar Heel 10 Road Race on April 8-10, UNC Commencement on May 6-8 and Independence Day weekend.

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