Sep 8, 2009

Primary Concern: Safety

by Amanda Sullivan


The sight of young men and women dashing from sonic in front of Liberty University across Wards Road in an effort to reach Wal-Mart will soon come to an end. Liberty and the City of Lynchburg are partnering together to help make the trip across Wards Road a little easier and safer for carless individuals by constructing a pedestrian and bicycle crosswalk in conjunction with the university’s building pedestrian tunnel near the Vines Center and vehicular tunnels on the north side of the campus.

The need for a pedestrian and bicycle crosswalk was recognized when the City of Lynchburg hired Sympoetica out of Woodstock, Va., to conduct a Wards Road Pedestrian Study, which was spurred by requirements in Liberty’s conditional use permits for the vehicular tunnels, according to Director of Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont


“The city had to come up with a way to get 6,700 students across Wards Road,” Beaumont said.

Many students make the mad dash across the railroad tracks and Wards Road out of necessity or sometimes just out of boredom — an adrenaline rush of sorts.

“I’ve (made the trip) a couple times and let me tell you—you better be right with Christ before you venture out there,” senior Matt LaSasso said. “It even gets more interesting if you’re going to the Wal-Mart, and your crossing the street with groceries.”

“We really have a two-stage safety issue,” Beaumont said. “Number one is creating a situation where students do not have to walk across the tracks anymore. Secondly, getting (the students) across Wards Road. “

The city’s solution to the problem of pedestrian safety was pedestrian crosswalk. The city is estimating that the project will cost about $1 million.

Several options were considered to solve the problem. The city contemplated building the crossing underground, but the tunnel would be below the waterline and expensive. The idea of building the crosswalk overhead was also considered and dismissed because the cost and the need for building elevators for handicap accessibility.

“The solution involves everything from a little green trail on the Wal-Mart side, and a sidewalk with a multi-staged crossing near Sam’s,” he said.

Liberty will appear in front of the city council for the adoption of the plan on Tuesday, Sept. 8. After the approval, the city council is required to supply the money needed to pay for the crosswalks, according to Beaumont.

“Liberty’s responsibility is to pay for the tunnels,” Beaumont said. “But once we get over the tracks, it’s not our property.”

The university and the city are attempting to build both the tunnel and crosswalk simultaneously. Liberty is seeking federal stimulus funds to help build the pedestrian tunnel, beginning construction in the spring, and completing the project in the fall.
The pedestrian crosswalk will benefit more than Liberty and its students.

“I really think it’s going to be a big deal for the vendors,” Beaumont said. “There are a number of venders in support (of the crosswalk project). Wal-mart and Sam’s (Club) are in support of it along with many others.”

The tunnel and crosswalk’s completion will offer a greater opportunity for students and food vendors alike.

“We’re going to start revamping how we do our point system with the meal plan,” he said. “We’re going to call it LU Dollars, which will give students the opportunity to buy food off campus with meal points.”

Contact Amanda Sullivan at


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