Another fall semester has begun at Shepherd University and the Route 480 underpass project continues to move forward with some delays.
As students returned to classes Monday, the underpass construction continued toward its revised end date -- sometime mid- October 2012, according to Shelli Dronsfield, assistant to the president.
Dronsfield explained that the project has seen some delays due to rain, exceptionally hot summer temperatures and unforeseen requirements from state department of highways, which included structural modifications to the project's retaining walls and storm drains.
"That added to our delay in getting started," she said.
Additionally, the university opted to meet with members of the community after contractor's recommendations for blasting changed the initial demolition plans.
The completed underpass was originally scheduled to be open for pedestrian use by August, just in time for students to return to the university campus.
Instead Dronsfield explained, students will continue to cross at the intersection of High and Duke streets, where a new four way stop was added last spring.
"The only viable crossing for them is at High and Duke street," she said
A crossing guard now directs traffic at the stop, in the university's attempt to keep traffic flow moving during peak class hours.
Dronsfield said an additional Pan Tran bus has been added on campus to shuttle more students from one side of campus to the other, as a means of curtailing backups.
Though Dronsfield acknowledges that rumors have circulated regarding the project's budget, she said costs are right on track.
"We are not over budget," she said.
Though the university originally asked the Shepherd Board of Governors for $4.15 million, a revised budget was approved in March for $5.65 million, as estimated costs changed.
$1.7 million dollars of the project's funding will come from the West Virginia Department of Highways, $400,000 from a federal appropriation and an estimated $3.55 million will be taken from the university's capital projects funds.
This week construction of the actual underpass structure has begun.
"You'll start to see that take shape," Dronsfield said.
To date, overhead utility relocations have been completed, the detour and bypass have been constructed and are in use and underground utility relocations are underway.
Prior to being opened for pedestrian and vehicle use in October, the retaining wall must be constructed and the underpass structure completed.
"We will continue to communicate with the community as far as any adjustments that need to be made to the timeline," Dronsfield said.
For more information about the underpass project visit www.shepherd.edu/underpass/.