By Nick Sabatini
As the school year progresses, the two pedestrian bridges on campus remain closed. An email sent by The Weekly Bark on Jan. 23 to the student body provided details of the bridge closures, as well as plans for a replacement bridge near Howard Hall. The bridge near Templeton will be demolished and modifications to improve accessibility will be made to the walkway underneath the Council Chamber.
“The new bridge will meet both seismic and ADA requirements, will include a roof and lighting, is being sourced and manufactured locally, and is being designed and installed to ensure sustainability,” The Bark email said.
“Clearly the bridge is structurally unsound,” Howard RA Dylan Benitez ’20 said. “It makes sense they closed it. It’s taken a while for them to communicate effectively about it, but now, it makes sense.”
Although Benitez lives next to the bridge, he must walk around Templeton to go to class.
“It’s been fairly inconvenient because I live in Howard, and the bridge is literally right there, but I have to walk all the way around campus,” Benitez said. “For that reason, it is sort of a hassle.”
Michel George, Associate Vice President of Facilities, said that if the bridge near Howard were to collapse, sewage would be dumped into the ravine.
“If the bridge breaks and the sewer (underneath the bridge) breaks, we dump thousands of gallons of raw sewage into an environmental waterway,” George said. “If you live in the dorms, it means you would have no sewage (system). This would have a big impact on students. If the bridge goes, so do the utilities, and that includes water, data and sewage.”
George said that the new bridge is scheduled to open in August 2018, although it is possible that the bridge will be completed before then. Various things could delay the opening of the new bridge, such as wet soil in the ravine and not receiving permits in time. However, there are no delays expected.
Although LC is running on a tight budget this year, this has not been a factor in constructing the new bridge.
“The budget has nothing to do with it,” George said. “Some students said it was because of the budget. It just takes so long for the permits. It will take about a year, which is typical for a bridge. We have been designing it, and money has not held us up. It just typically takes a long time. It takes three to six months to get an environmental permit, and a month or two to get the building permit. It will take two to three months to install it.”
During the closure, both George and Assistant Dean of Student Rights and Responsibilities Charlie Ahlquist agreed that jumping the fences to cross the bridge is dangerous and a potential violation of school policy.
“It’s a safety issue,” George said. “There is a clear barrier that says you shouldn’t do that. We are obviously concerned about student safety. Nobody knows how long (the bridges) will last. Even though it looks fairly stable, it isn’t.”
Ahlquist said that a student trying to cross one of the closed bridges could be subject to disciplinary action under the Directives Policy and the Unauthorized Entry Policy. No comment was provided by LC’s General Counsel on who would be legally liable if someone got hurt.
“If a member of our community is to observe someone on the bridges, I hope they would advise the person of the structural integrity concerns of the bridges and encourage them to vacate (sic) the bridges,” Alquist said. “It would also be appropriate for them to contact Campus Safety, who could also follow up with the person in question.”
George said the new bridge will be built to last 100 years. He understands the closure has been an inconvenience, but most students have been cooperating.
“We are looking at building the best bridge we can,” George said. “We are looking at making it more accessible. It will be well-lit. It will be safe.”