Feb 3, 2009

Work set to begin on Wards Road tunnels

by Joshua Swanson, News Reporter

 After waiting more than two-and-a-half years to gain approval, Liberty is preparing to start digging two separate tunnels for vehicles and another for pedestrians, according to Director of Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont. The vehicular tunnels (one inbound and one outbound) will start next to the communications station between North Campus and DeMoss. They will exit out onto Harvard Street, which is near Buffalo Wild Wings. For the pedestrian tunnel, it will start behind the Vines Center and it will exit near The Vitamin Shoppe store, according to Beaumont.

A three-foot wide pedestrian walkway will also be built in both of the vehicular tunnels as well.

Liberty should get the final go for the project in March and digging is being planned to commence sometime in April, with the process requiring about six months, according to Beaumont.

“Building a tunnel under a live railroad track is no easy task. The crews will work 12-hour days,” Beaumont said. “The pedestrian tunnel will be built first, then we will move over to the vehicular tunnels.”

The tunnels will only be going under the railroad track and not any buildings.

“You need to have the same amount of ‘fill’ between the tunnel and the rail as the diameter of the tunnel,” Beaumont said. “The vehicular tunnels are limited to 20-feet in diameter, because there is only 20 feet of fill. The pedestrian tunnel is 12 feet.”

Students will be able to benefit from the tunnels in several ways with safety being a key factor. The tunnels, “will eliminate many dangerous U-turns on Wards Road allowing for a smoother traffic flow,” Beaumont said.

Traffic backups on the railroad tracks will also be prevented when trains are on the tracks. This will make the area safer for students and the railroad. Currently, if there were an emergency on campus and a train was blocking the way to Wards Road, there could be a problem for first responders, according to Beaumont.

Having students use the tunnels will reduce the chance of having a student or vehicle get hit by a train.

Senior Eddie Verlander said, “It will help safety issues in crossing Wards Road to get to Wal-Mart, and it will also cut down on traffic when leaving campus church.”

“The at-grade crossing will be removed when all the tunnels are completed and that area will be protected with a buffer of plants to prevent people from walking on the railroad tracks,” Beaumont said.
Briana Drinkwater, a freshmen who has walked to Target, Petsmart, Wal-Mart and other stores said, “I think the tunnel would be helpful, so that students would not have to walk to the railroad crossing to cross the railroad tracks.”

Liberty had to obtain an erosion and sediment bond from the city and prove that it will not impact the flood plain. Liberty also had to get a Department of Environmental Quality permit, since there is a small area of wetlands in the area where digging will occur.

Masters Engineering, Perkins and Orrison, Danville Drilling and TGS Engineering representing the railroad were at the meeting Wednesday where the tunnel project was discussed, according to Beaumont.

Contact Joshua Swanson at

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