Mar 28, 2006

More tunnels at Liberty

by Matthew Warner
Geological testing to see if conditions are favorable for a pair of proposed tunnels which would run underneath the railroad tracks between Wards Road and Liberty University will begin as soon as possible, according to Liberty University’s Vice Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.

The proposed tunnels would intersect Wards Road at Harvard Street with the opposite end coming onto campus directly behind the Al Worthington Baseball Stadium.

Currently, the rear entrance to the university crosses a pair of railroad tracks and is shared by vehicles and pedestrians, creating a dangerous intersection.

This road will be closed to vehicles and pedestrian traffic once the tunnels are complete.

In addition to two vehicle tunnels a pedestrian tunnel similar to the one crossing under U.S. 460, is likely to run from Panera Bread and Chick-Fil-A to an area near the Henry Morris Green House behind the Vines Center.

Lynchburg City Manager, Kimball Payne, who recently met with Falwell, told the Lynchburg News and Advance that Wards Road needs pedestrian access between Liberty University and the shopping centers that house Target and Wal-Mart. According to the News and Advance a solution is currently in the planning stages, one possibility is a crosswalk near Barnes & Noble.

In addition to improved pedestrian safety, “traffic flow around campus will be greatly improved,” said Falwell. Ericsson Drive, which currently dead-ends at a T-intersection between David’s Place and Campus North, will be extended to run behind David’s Place and Al Worthington Stadium, connect with the tunnels, and continue into the parking lot of the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. The property for the road was donated to the city of Lynchburg by Ericsson Inc. and Liberty about 10 years ago, around that time the city completed excavations and grading up to the tunnel entrance, but the road was only paved to its current location.

Once construction on Ericsson Drive is complete the existing road above the baseball field will be for pedestrian use only.

With the new tunnels and the conjoining of Ericsson Drive with the Reber Thomas parking lot “a shuttle bus route could be established that would constantly make a loop from DeMoss to Vines to 460 via the new ramp, around to Wards Road - making stops at businesses along the way - to the new tunnels at Harvard Street, up Ericsson Drive by David’s Place to Campus North and back to DeMoss along University Blvd.,” said Falwell.

A vehicle tunnel has been in the University’s master plan for 17 years, said Falwell, who met with railroad officials and Danville Drilling in February. Danville Drilling is the company responsible for the pedestrian tunnel between the Vines Center and East Campus underneath  460, in February.

“If we do not encounter too much underground rock or other unfavorable soil conditions, our plan is to proceed with the construction this year,” said Falwell.

Once construction begins the tunnels will take between two and three months to complete.

This plan is supported by both the railroad company and the city, since the railroad is concerned about safety and the city would like to see improved traffic flow in and around the University, said Falwell.

Contact Matthew Warner at

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