City to seek students’ input on proposed Wards Road bridge
Liberty University students will get a chance to sound off on a proposed plan to build a pedestrian bridge over Wards Road.
Liberty and Lynchburg officials will survey students in the coming weeks to gauge interest in a bridge. The officials met last Friday to discuss plans to make crossing Wards Road safer for pedestrians.
“We want to make sure what we do the students will really use whatever we build,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said.
Last September, council members unanimously agreed to build a street-level pedestrian crossing on Wards Road. The project includes placing crossing signals and marked crosswalks on the highway and a fenced-in pedestrian refuge in the median.
Council members set aside over $2 million for the project, which includes placing walking trails on Rock Castle Creek along Wards Road.
his summer, Liberty leaders asked city officials to place a bridge above Wards Road.
Pedestrians would access the bridge by elevator or stairs on the east side of Wards Road and exit likely by stairs or a ramp in the Sam’s Club parking lot.
City Manager Kimball Payne said city and university officials want to know if students will use a pedestrian bridge.
“Having 500 students say they will use a bridge twice a year is much different than 300 using it everyday,” Payne said.
Payne wants city and university officials to reach a consensus and present a clear plan to council members.
“It’s incumbent on us to come together and have a plan,” Payne said. “We have not decided what to do yet.”
Payne said officials discussed paying Liberty to build the bridge if the university was willing to own and maintain the structure.
Falwell said university leaders have not made a decision on owning a bridge.
“It was a good open discussion on how we can work together,” Payne said.
Liberty officials suggested the city could save money on the project by scrapping plans to build walking trails along Rock Castle Creek. Payne said the trails were essential to pedestrian safety.
City Planner Tom Martin is preparing a survey for Liberty students. The survey is expected to measure interest in a pedestrian bridge and determine how often students cross Wards Road on foot and in a vehicle.
Falwell hopes to present the survey in the coming weeks. “It was a very good meeting,” Falwell said. “The city is willing to do its part. I don’t think there is going to be any disagreement.”
Falwell said seeking student input will help leaders make a decision. “We want to measure twice and cut once,” Falwell said.
Payne said city and university leaders have time to prepare a detailed plan for council and begin construction in the spring.
Liberty will build a $1.3 million pedestrian and bicycle tunnel this summer in conjunction with the pedestrian crossing.
The tunnel will be built under the railroad tracks behind the Vines Center, allowing students direct access from the campus to Wards Road shops.
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