Friday, August 1, 2014

Pedestrian tunnel break-through

Light at the end of the tunnel — Liberty’s new pedestrian tunnel has entered into the final stage of construction, marked by the opening of the Wards Road entrance that took place last week. Photo credit: Les Schofer

Wards Road entrance of pedestrian tunnel opened up, on track for December use

Liberty University’s in-process pedestrian tunnel, connecting the main campus to Wards Road, finally saw a break-through Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Construction workers opened the Wards Road entrance of the pedestrian tunnel with Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife, Becki, in attendance, according to the Liberty News Service.

“Falwell and his wife, Becki, entered on Liberty’s side behind the Vines Center and walked the full length of the tunnel before Falwell kicked out some boards that protected the Wards Road side during construction,” the Liberty News Service stated. Falwell drove through the tunnel later in the week.

The pedestrian tunnel, which will cost roughly $2 million according to Director of Planning and Construction Charles Spence, runs underneath the Norfolk Southern railroad track at the back of the campus. It empties out near Panera Bread and the pedestrian bridge that runs from Panera Bread to Sam’s Club. According to WDBJ7.com, construction on this tunnel began about three months ago.

The tunnel, when completed, will look similar to the one that connects East Campus to Main Campus, although not identical. Spence said that the new tunnel will have ribbed walls, instead of smooth, and, if funding allows, it will have an overall more Jeffersonian appearance.

These projects, both the tunnel and the bridge, were originally undertaken for the safety of the Liberty students and specifically to deter them from crossing over the railroad tracks and Wards Road to leave Liberty’s campus, according to Falwell and Spence.

Falwell said that students will soon not even have the option of using any other access point, since there are plans to build a fence along both the railroad tracks and in the median of Wards Road.

However, the pedestrian bridge has the extra advantage of providing students with easier access to the businesses along Wards Road, which will be beneficial for them, according to Spence.

The pedestrian bridge across Wards Road has been in use since the beginning of last week. However, Spence said that the City of Lynchburg is planning an official opening date at some point in November. The opening of the tunnel will follow within a few months. Spence said at this point, the tunnel is basically installed and now the construction crew is working on the finishing touches, such as lighting and sidewalks.

“We are hoping to have it open early in December,” Spence said. “Hopefully before the kids go home for Christmas.

By the spring semester of 2012, the bridge will be ready for full-fledged use.

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