OSU Streetscape Completed

At the newly renovated intersection of Jefferson and S.W. 15th streets, the sharp sing-song of the crosswalk alert chimes regularly as students cross on their way to or from class.”I think the crossing timer is really awesome,” said Chloe Takacs, a freshman in microbiology. The new alert, which goes off three to five times depending if one is crossing Jefferson or 15th, is only a small part of the recently completed construction.

During the fall term of 2008, students learned to walk between the bike racks behind Callahan Hall, cross 15th Street, and duck under the awning at Kerr to avoid the ongoing construction at the intersection. They probably didn’t realize that the fenced-off area was only the wrap-up construction of a much larger project which had broken ground in June of 2008.

According to Zach Golik, an associate civil engineer for OSU’s Facilities Services who was also the construction manager for the renovation, the plan to renovate the intersection began in the fall term of 2007.

When asked what motivated the renovation, Golik stated that the construction served the purposes of two projects. One was OSU’s response to a Corvallis city mandate that 14th and 15th streets should be updated to include bike lanes to make it safer for bicyclists.

The other was a city project to add bus turn lanes because city buses could not turn north in this area, as the turn was too tight for their size. With turn lanes and a wider street, buses could save time by not having to detour several blocks around to avoid the tight corner.

This also opened the opportunity for a transit hub close to a major location on campus – Kerr Administration building.

It was in response to these requests and the general wish to create a “gateway” to the Oregon State campus when arriving on Jefferson Street from downtown that Facilities Services began planning in Fall 2007 for the renovation.

Golik laid out the general format that these projects follow, first with Oregon State recognizing the need for a renovation or remodeling. Next consultants for the design are hired, which for the renovation of the intersection of Jefferson Street and SW 15th Street included not only engineers but landscape architects as well. These consultants helped to internally plan the renovation before presenting it to the City of Corvallis for coding and permits.

While the renovation was mostly to bring up certain areas to city code or to comply with city projects, Golik added that some of the projects included the creation of some aesthetics to make the entrance to campus more welcoming. These additions can be seen in the Gateway Arches which frame the entire intersection, the landscaping additions, as well as the proud “OSU” stamped into the pavement on Jefferson Street as it heads toward downtown Corvallis.

“I think it looks very pretty. It looks very modern and put-together – but it needed more plants,” Takacs said.

The addition of landscaping in and around the Gateway Arches was, however, not the only thing that Facilities Services added in their renovation. Included in the renovation are manholes, which are designed to trap and contain sediment to keep it out of local rivers.

The manholes are designed to service about a third of the OSU campus in this way. Their placement was decided based on civil engineers looking at storm sewer maps and comparing the runoff of rainwater and the drainage of other water sources. This entire section of the project was designed to control erosion which not only damages the landforms where it occurs but also does damage to rivers and streams because of increased sediment buildup. This sediment buildup can lead to problems farther downstream to fish populations.

This surprisingly large project, however, did not go over-budget. It was, in fact, slightly under the budget of less than $2 million dollars. Facilities Services tries, Golik said, to estimate costs as close as possible to the actual outcome of cost to the university system.

Golik stated that there had been no surprises throughout the project and that the bulk of all construction had wrapped up before the fall term of 2008. This allowed for the street to be open as the construction of the Gateway Arches as well as the landscaping was completed.

It was this wrap-up that caused some students a bit of frustration, however. “It was a pain, but it looks nice now,” said Laura Bond, a freshman in the forestry engineering and civil engineering programs, who routinely rides her bike to class.

Many students passing by and detouring around the project probably did not know the full extent of either the construction or its purpose. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the detour required for most of the fall of 2008 was anything but short.

An observer who preferred to remain anonymous noted that the project seemed to be “a lot of effort for not a lot of benefit . If it could have been done faster it would have been better.”

“It was actually a pretty fun project. I personally learned quite a bit. And we [Facilities Services] hope to continue moving west with renovations on Jefferson Street,” Golik said.

He also recognized the fact that some aspects of any project will lag behind the others. The landscaping lagged considerably, he said, and the very last touches to the Gateway Arches will be arriving hopefully this week or next. These last touches will be adding signs which are to be lit at night automatically by a photoelectric sensor. These will announce the fact that one is now entering the heart of the OSU campus on Jefferson Street.

In the end, however, students from rural areas, like Erika Annen, a first year mechanical engineering student, feel that the inconvenience was not awful and went with the flow.

“It was a lot less hassle than it could have been . I’m used to living out in the country where there’s no easy detour to go through when there is construction.”

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Source: The Daily Barometer (OSU)

View Project: OSU Campus Gateways