Anna Wu, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, said the construction was deemed an emergency because evidence of water leaking was found in an underground steam tunnel.
“Water in the steam tunnel isn’t a good idea because it can damage the distribution lines,” she said. “So there was concern about the integrity of the existing steam lines with this leaking happening.”
Wu said the University brought on a contractor who discovered the leaking water was washing away the dirt around the underground vault of a manhole. Without dirt to support the vault, Wu said there was risk of the manhole collapsing and breaking the surrounding lines.
Wu said the project will last until January because the construction crew has to prop up other underground utilities near the compromised steam tunnel.
Department of Public Safety spokesperson Randy Young said they are working to have the project done before basketball season and will send out information for parking and traffic for football game days. He said the parking lots on Skipper Bowles will still be accessible, just from alternative routes.
Brian Litchfield, director for Chapel Hill Transit, said students especially use the U and the RU buses, which run through Skipper Bowles Drive.
“There are no really good alternatives to Bowles Drive,” he said. “There’s no parallel street that we can operate down to get closer to the B-school or places like that. It creates some challenges for detours and anytime that we’re detouring around and not serving stops that customers are utilizing, that creates challenges for our customers getting to and from where they need to go.”
Sydney Ramsey, a sophomore resident advisor in Hinton James, said she lives closer to the routes affected, but has managed to deal with the detour.
“It’s not awful if you learn to plan early, like get up earlier to walk to class because classes are pretty regular at this point,” she said. “I’ve seen the bus drive by people and it’s ridiculous. People are freaking out, I’m just like, ‘Oh no’ — it’s not horrendous, but it’s throwing a wrench in people’s plans.”
Litchfield said not only will bus routes be affected, but the bus time schedules will be as well.
“Especially during peak hours, any time a bus has got to drive, whether it’s a block or more further beyond what it normally drives, it affects its ability to stay on time,” he said. “Any type of detour or closure will impact routes and this again is impacting some of our most heavily utilized routes, and we look forward to being able to get back to serving Bowles Drive as soon as possible.”
Litchfield said though inconvenient, the detour is necessary.
“We would only detour from this area if the reason for detouring out of there was to allow the construction process to move forward as quickly as possible so we can return to the area as soon as possible,” he said. “So, if not for that we would have kept our route in the area, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option to make that project go as quick as possible.”