December 09, 2004

SIUC marks completion of overpass project

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Pedestrian walkways, parking lots and roofs, by their nature, are not very glamorous. But Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials and students took time today (Thursday, Dec. 9) to acknowledge the importance of a well-maintained infrastructure to the smooth functioning of a major university campus.

Chancellor Walter V. Wendler cut the ribbon to mark the completion of $1.3 million worth of repairs to the north pedestrian overpass, which spans U.S. Highway 51 and railroad tracks. The 1,150-foot overpass, built in the early 1970's, links east campus housing areas with the central campus. There is a second overpass to the south, near SIUC's power plant.

A structural study found that about 72 percent of the north overpass' deck structure had deteriorated due to moisture, and the study recommended complete replacement of the deck rather than patching.

Joining Wendler in the ceremony was Catherine A. Hagler, executive director of administration, and Joseph M. Robinson Jr., president of SIUC's Residence Hall Association.

The project, which began March 8, wrapped up this fall and included replacement of the concrete walkway, handrails, electrical wiring and Plexiglas panels.

"When we talk about the commitment to excellence on this campus, that includes providing excellent facilities," Wendler said. "It is our responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of our students, staff and faculty, as well as the many members of the community at large who visit our campus on a daily basis."

He noted that several major undertakings on campus, including the new health facility, Morris Library expansion/renovation and the academic and training center for student-athletes, tend to overshadow projects such as the overpass repairs.

"We know the closing of this overpass created an inconvenience for people who use it on a daily basis," Wendler said. "But that was a small price to pay as part of our ongoing efforts to provide the safest living and learning environment that we can."

As part of SIUC's commitment to safety, Wendler announced that by early January, each overpass will feature two cellular phones programmed to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. The phones will be located on both ends of each overpass. Estimated cost of the project is $25,600, with the chancellor's office funding $20,000 of the cost and the rest coming from University Housing. The housing division will cover monthly cellular service and any maintenance costs.

Robinson, a senior majoring in political science/pre-law from Waukegan, is a four-year member of the Residence Hall Association. He became president due to a resignation during his junior year, and won election to the post last spring.

"The north pedestrian overpass is more than a structure that delivers its passengers from point A to point B," he said. "This structure bridges a metaphorical gap between our campus' learning and living communities. For roughly 3,200 students, this bridge melds together two portions of their lives. Many make the trek to class in the morning and in the evening, return to the solace and comfort of their residence halls."

In addition to the overpass project, Hagler mentioned a variety of other essential infrastructure improvements either completed this year or planned in the coming months.

They include:

  • Relocation of the entrance to parking lot 47, located between the Public Policy Institute and the Neckers Building and across Lincoln Drive from the Engineering Building. The project, completed this fall, relocated the entrance 300 feet to the west along Lincoln Drive in an effort to enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists and offer some relief at one of the campus' most congested locations.
  • Construction of a small parking area west of Lingle Hall and the Arena to make it more convenient for people going to the ticket office. The parking area, completed in October, features six metered spaces, including one designated for handicapped parking.
  • Replacement of Shryock Auditorium's stage floor, completed in August. The new state-of-the-art floor, a 3/4-inch white oak surface, utilizes a "basket-weave" foundation. Three layers of crisscross supports sit atop neoprene pads, providing the kind of spring that reduces injuries to dancers.
  • Replacement of two entry canopies on the south side of Anthony Hall with copper metal canopies. Anticipated completion of this project is next spring.
  • Replacement of the fourth floor roof on Life-Science II and replacement of the northwest and southwest portions of the Shryock Auditorium roof. The work at Shryock will begin next week; expected completion of both projects also is next spring.

Enhancing campus safety is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.