Students, staff anticipate completion of bridge, tunnel
Liberty University remains committed to student’s safety with the future openings of the pedestrian bridge and tunnel, according to Liberty officials.
For some students, the bridge and tunnel will be a construction project that they may never use. But for others, a tunnel and bridge mean a safer college experience.
Senior Brendan Jones looks forward to the opening of both the bridge and tunnel. Having to walk over the railroad tracks on his way to Sonic and Wal-Mart, Jones understands the need and sees the projects as a much better route.
“I think it’s a much safer way,” he said. “The train can back things up, and I get delayed, so I’ll be using the tunnel pretty often.”
Maggie Cossman, a corporate engineer for Liberty in the Planning and Construction department, has been working closely with both projects.
“We know (students) cross the railroads tracks, and that’s not safe. We know they want to cross Wards Road, and that’s also not safe,” she said. “So the main driving force between both these projects is to provide a safe way for Liberty students and local citizens to go both directions.”
Local citizens, such as Teresa Farmer, will be using the tunnel. Farmer, a Sodexo employee, crosses the railroad tracks daily for lunch breaks. If there’s a train coming through, it turns her break time into a waiting game, Farmer said. She is also excited because of seeing too many dangerous situations involving students crossing the tracks in a hurry to avoid waiting.
“I’ve seen kids cross over while the railway arms were down. It’s very dangerous,” Farmer said. “The tunnel will alleviate a lot of those problems.”
Liberty began looking for options back in May 2008. Before that, the City of Lynchburg had researchers looking for options to get pedestrians across Wards Road safely. After the final touches are complete, the $1.35 million bridge will be open barring no complications with inspection. Although the official open date has not been set, students can expect to be using the bridge by the end of October.
The bridge will be owned by Lynchburg, but Liberty will be expected to carry out any maintenance.
“This has been a great partnership between the City of Lynchburg and Liberty University,” Cossman said.
Although the bridge will open first, the tunnel project is well underway. It will be similar to the tunnel that runs under the 460 highway, except with a different support system due to the railroad that it runs under. The tunnel will cost more than $2 million because of the intricate design of working under a railroad system in which the elevation cannot be altered.
“It took us three and half years to get the tunnel approved,” Cossman said.
Cossman could not give an exact date for the tunnel to open, but did seem positive it would come by the end of the year. The tunnel will empty out near the Vitamin Shoppe, leaving a short walk to the bridge crossing Wards Road.