Shepherd University held an official opening ceremony for the pedestrian underpass connecting east and west campuses on Monday.
As students milled through the newly completed $5.65 million pathway under W.Va. Route 480, university President Suzanne Shipley and SU faculty celebrated, along with special guest, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.
"This is our new link," said Gat Caperton, chair of the SU Board of Governors, who served as master of ceremonies at the event.
Dan Yanna, the university's director of facilities described the process it has taken to make the underpass a reality.
Constructed in an effort to protect the safety of students from vehicular traffic, Yanna said pedestrian safely has "always been an issue."
He discussed the "numerous surface applications" the university has employed in an effort to address safety in the past, and he said a project of this scale wasn't thought to be possible until SU's President Shipley decided to make it her mission and priority.
"The time to address this safety project was now," he said.
Originally slated for completion in August, the project was marked by several delays due to unforeseen utility issues, extreme weather conditions and difficulties with the landscape's vast amount of rock deposits.
Elizabeth Greer, a member of the Student Government Association thanked the construction team for many months of work.
"We thank those who have worked diligently," she said.
Greer said students deserve an opportunity to know their journey between campuses will be a safe one.
"Walk Strong! Walk Safe!" she enthused.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito said the underpasses was "bigger and brighter," than imagined.
Capito, who first visited the site of the underpass in August, has offered her support for the project since its inception and assisted in securing $400,000 in federal earmarks to help fund it.
Capito characterized the danger students previously faced as a "possibly deadly situation in the past."
Capito praised the community, state, Corporation of Shepherdstown and neighbors like the Bavarian Inn, for the cooperation and assistance in making the project possible.
"Problem solvers are abundant in West Virginia," she said
Shipley, who spoke last at the ceremony, simply thanked the community for its patience and understanding throughout the pathways construction.
Shipley called the completed underpass "transformative," as it links Shepherd's many new art facilities and its older historic buildings on each campus.
"We will be one campus now," she said.