Construction of the light rail line 40 percent complete

The heavy stage of the construction process is coming to an end.

by Alysha Bohanon

Amid the vast changes and the occasional bout of confusion for University students and faculty, the Central Corridor light-
rail line has begun to take shape.

While adjusting to these changes proved difficult at times, a look down Washington Avenue shows that significant progress has been made during the first full semester of construction.

 According to the Metropolitan Council, the project is now 40 percent complete. A few of the benchmarks met on campus this semester include reconstructing the south side of the Washington Avenue Bridge, installing the first rail on the East Bank and constructing stations on the East Bank in front of Moos Tower and the West Bank between the Cedar and 19th Avenue bridges.

Construction crews will continue to work near campus on the Washington Avenue Bridge and West Bank station throughout the winter. Crews will be back on the East Bank in late March, said Met Council spokeswoman Laura Baenen.

Pedestrians and bikers were forced to adapt to the changes on campus.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said traffic issues were persistent in the first few months of construction. The intersection of Pleasant Street and Pillsbury Avenue was especially troublesome, Hestness said.

âÄúIt took quite a bit of work to get people to obey and wait their turn,âÄù Hestness said. âÄúBasically at that intersection, everything that could hit each other did hit each other.âÄù

But a new traffic light was erected at that intersection over winter break and will hopefully be operational by Tuesday, Hestness said.

During the coming year, students can expect to see even more changes around campus as the heavy construction stage of the project comes to a close.

Crews plan to complete work on the Washington Avenue transit/pedestrian mall by the end of the year, Baenen said. The mall will stretch from Pleasant to Walnut streets and include 20-foot-wide sidewalks on each end of the station and will be closed to general vehicle traffic.

Construction of the East Bank, West Bank and Stadium Village stations, as well as the Washington Avenue Bridge will also be finished by then. In addition, crews will rebuild underground utilities and install rails in other areas near campus.

Although major construction will be substantially finished by the end of the year, the light rail will not be open until 2014.

Following the heavy construction stage, the rail must undergo systems work (like installing overhead wires) and testing.