The $5.6 million construction project at Shepherd University is one step closer to completion, as Shepherd Grade Road re-opened Dec. 11 to connect traffic back to W.Va. 480.
Shellie Dronsfield, chief of staff for Shepherd University, said Monday afternoon that the project's contractor reported that morning the road would re-open within 24 hours, returning to the previous traffic pattern with additional enhancements.
"Previously, if you were coming from the Bavarian Inn on that side, and you were approaching 480, you had a very significant curve and at the same time a very steep grade. When there was any kind of icy or snowy weather, often times people found themselves in the middle of Route 480 because they weren't able to stop," Dronsfield said.
Shepherd Grade Road connecting to W.Va. 480, pictured above, is set to open today. The detour was for the construction of a pedestrian underpass which will be available for Shepherd University students in January.
She said the alterations were made to help ensure safety for future traffic conditions.
The Bavarian Inn portion of the project will have to be restored to a certain degree, in that modifications will be necessary to discourage through traffic. Drivers, Dronsfield said, have gotten used to this detoured traffic pattern over the previous five months, and various types of road markers will be used for proper direction post-construction.
The pedestrian underpass is expected to be completed by the end of next week, although students will not utilize the new walkway until they return to campus in January.
"The reason for Shepherd Grade Road being affected is because of the detour, in order to keep traffic away from the area where the underpass was being constructed," Dronsfield said. "Our stone wall was removed, and that's what took Shepherd Grade Road out of commission."
The project began in January with the relocation of utilities, and that process is still ongoing as construction crews determine if lines are raised high enough to ensure no future problems are found. The location of unexpected underground utilities caused the project to be delayed, as the lines had to be relocated.
Community members began to feel the impact of construction between late March and early April, shortly after the project was awarded to contractor C.W. Hetzer, when hammering and the removal of rock began, Dronsfield said.
"We are looking at Jan. 7, the first day of class, for a ribbon-cutting. We are anticipating that Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who was instrumental in securing a $400,000 Department of Transportation appropriation that went towards the project, will be able to be a part of this," Dronsfield said, adding that the university also anticipates that the West Virginia Division of Highways will be present.
"The department of highways has committed a significant portion toward the project, because of the critical nature of pedestrian safety," Dronsfield said.