Students living in The Chase and Campus Core will soon be able to walk to campus via the sidewalks newly installed by the city of Murray.
Starting at The Keg’s parking lot, sidewalks north along 16th Street are currently under construction, using thermoplastic crosswalks and finishing in front of Campus Core.
Peyton Mastera, projects administrator for Murray, said while the city will oversee construction up to the multiplex, Campus Core will be responsible for finishing the sidewalk per contractual obligations and development guidelines.
“The overall goal of this grant was not only to provide a suitable means of non-vehicular transportation,” Mastera said. “It also was to enhance the environment by reducing harmful air emissions.”
The project, which is being primarily funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is also funded with $36,000 in-kind from the city. Through the energy, efficiency and conservation block of the grant, the city received $125,000.
Mastera said the sidewalk project will link up with the state widening of Ky. Hwy. 121, which is set to begin once the city purchases right-of-way for the development.
“The scope of this project was to try and make a cut in the amount of cars that travel through this busy thoroughfare,” he said. “The state is in the right-of-way acquisition at this time for Ky. Hwy. 121, but once construction is complete, sidewalks are to extend from 121 out to Bailey Road.”
Along with ARRA grants, the Murray Transit Authority recently received a grant worth approximately $1 million for further sidewalk improvements.
While the city of Murray is deciding where to use grants like these, Mastera said one of the main priorities will be to finish sidewalks adjacent to the intramural fields up to Ky. Hwy. 121 and to oversee the completion of sidewalks on Lowe’s Drive.
“We are also hopeful all plans are finalized by the state to begin construction of sidewalks on Sycamore street from 4th to 12th streets and along Doran Road through to Murray High School,” Mastera said. “We are shooting for spring or summer construction date(s).”
Mark Welch, director of Community Relations, said the funding could not have come at a better time for the University as it continues to develop off-campus housing.
“We desperately need sidewalks to our off-campus student housing,” Welch said. “Construction is expensive and this new funding is great news for the campus and our community.”
For years, students living in The Chase and Campus Core have trudged the ditches and dodged the heavy traffic along 16th Street to get to campus.
Some did it to save on gas money, some did it to avoid buying a parking pass and some did it just to be healthy.
Whatever the reason, students are thrilled to see sidewalks coming to their part of town.
Rachel Sweeney, senior from Evansville, Ind., said she knows she’ll be using the sidewalks as soon as they are complete.
“I walk to class every other day and now I don’t have to worry about being hit by a crazy driver on that stretch of road by The Keg,” she said. “Plus, the more sidewalks and the safer it is to walk I believe the more people will utilize them.”
Lauren Hines, alumna from the class of 2007, now lives on the other side of town, but she said she wishes the sidewalks had been available while she finished undergraduate work at the University as not only safety was a concern, but the weather as well.
“The ditches I had to walk through to get to class were insane, especially after it had rained,” she said. “One time my shoe got stuck and I couldn’t get it out. True story.”
Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, said the partnership between the City Council and the Campus Safety Committee has been positive as the University continues to make suggestions for city and county improvements.
Said Robertson: “These sidewalks are very important to the University and the community. They are very critical to student safety as many of our students walk these routes as well as for use them for bike traffic.”