The familiar herds of commuters and upperclassmen waiting for the chirp of the crossing signals to usher them across Route 9 could be a scene of the past in 2011.
Marist College has been working with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to design an underpass under Route 9 to promote student safety and ease the flow of traffic on the highway.
Executive Vice President Roy Merolli said Marist hired a traffic engineering consulting company called Urbitran to work on the plans for a crossing, and decided an underpass would be better suited for the area than an overpass because of the topography of the land.
Merolli said the underpass would be a safe and secure passage that could be made 30 feet wide and would be well lit. It would be more accessible for disabled students than an overpass because the underpass would be mostly flat. Merolli also said fewer trees would have to be compromised in the construction of an underpass as opposed to an overpass, and there would be no danger of people throwing things onto the street.
When and if the town planning board, county officials and the Fairview Fire District approve the project, the major part of construction would begin in the summer of 2010 and run through the 2010-2011 school year. Since the project is still in the design process, Merolli said it is hard to estimate a cost but that costs would be shared in a public and private partnership.
Justin Butwell, director of the Physical Plant, said the cost would be "certainly in the millions," but it is too soon to make any accurate cost predictions.
Butwell will help guide the design from a Marist perspective, but said the NYSDOT will take the lead role in design because Route 9 is owned by the state.
"The over 1,000 students living on the east campus will be able to walk straight down and cross and have direct access to the north and south campus," Butwell said.
The proposed underpass would line up with the pedestrian bridge on east campus and emerge on the main campus just north of the Kieran Gatehouse.
Student Body President Erik Zeyher said the underpass will save students time walking to and from class and will help with student safety as they will not have to cross a "busy and hectic Route 9."
"[The underpass] is more feasible than the overpass and also fits better with the landscape of the campus," Zeyher said. "After seeing the school's master plan in Student Government's summer session, I think that the administration examined and exhausted many options and this is what is best for the students and Marist."
Junior Megan Kuhn said she wishes there was a faster way to walk to class from her Fulton townhouse.
"When it's really cold you don't want to walk outside or go to class or do anything," Kuhn said. Justin Wadsworth is a junior who commutes to campus and parks in the Beck Place lot. On a day when 20 mph winds dropped temperatures into the teens, Wadsworth said it would be "nice, to say the least" if there was an underpass.
"It would be much more efficient and we wouldn't have to stand in the cold," Wadsworth said.
Current upperclassmen will not experience the convenience of the underpass. The project, if all goes according to plan, is not expected to be in use until fall of 2011.
Originally appeared 2/26/2009 in The Circle