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SU unveils 480 underpass plans

By Staff | Aug 12, 2011

View of the proposed pedestrian underpass from?Shepherd’s West Campus looking toward Ram Stadium. (submitted artist rendering)

A meeting was held last Wednesday evening, Aug. 3 at Shepherd University to discuss plans for the proposed pedestrian underpass to be constructed between the East and West campuses, under Route 480.

Meeting attendees included residents of the local community as well as some Shepherd University students, faculty members, Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer, representatives from the West Virginia Department of Highways and Shepherd President Suzanne Shipley.

Richard Klein, CEO of Alpha Associates, the company tasked with the planning and design of the underpass, gave a presentation detailing its look and dimensions.

The underpass will be located approximately 25 yards northeast of the current crosswalk.

The project itself will entail the elevation of the roadway both along Route 480 and at the end of Shepherd Grade Road.

Both roads will be lifted to create an underpass underneath.

Klein discussed the timeline for construction and provided logistics for traffic detours that will go into effect during the three-month construction period, scheduled to take place May through July 2012.

He explained that the detours are “to avoid traffic back up.”

The proposal will call for the construction of a temporary roadway through Shepherd’s West Campus. This roadway is designed to reroute traffic entering and exiting Shepherd Grade Road around the site of the underpass.

Traffic moving along Route 480 from Maryland will be rerouted through the Bavarian Inn, exit to Shepherd Grade and then travel along to the temporary roadway.

Meeting attendees last week were invited to ask questions regarding project specifics and its impact.

In an interview this week, Shelli Dronsfield, assistant to university President Shipley, described the project as an effort to increase safety, calling it “paramount.”

“We want to provide unimpeded travel for vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic,” she said.

Dronsfield cited the increase in pedestrian usage of the crosswalk in recent years, corresponding the expansion of West Campus. She described the project as “part of the growing pains.”

The project, which is estimated to cost $4 million, will be funded in part by a $400,000 federal appropriation secured by U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia). The remaining cost will be covered by the university’s capital projects budget, though the university continues to pursue additional avenues for possible funding.

Dronsfield said the project is on track for its projected timeline, though she conceded that last Wednesday’s meeting left a lot of concerns to be addressed.

Rick Staisloff, acting vice president of Administration and Finance for the University, moderated the event and fielded questions.

Residents raised concerns about whether the underpass would be properly utilized by students, who are known to cross campus in multiple locations, including the intersection at North Duke and High streets.

“We want people to cross there and cross safely,” Staisloff said.

Illustrative drawings of the underpass from several elevations as well as more information can be found by visiting www.shepherd.edu/underpass/.