Road work builds frustration

Michelle Kibiger

Construction along University Avenue has been a mixed blessing for commuters and residents. Although the end result should be improved roads and bike paths, increased dust and the early morning sounds of loud equipment have created a hassle for many in surrounding areas.
University Avenue’s face lift is the initial phase in a two-year project that will change Fourth Street S.E., as well. The University planned the project to improve road surfaces and create a system of bike paths.
“There was an awful lot of preparation (for this project),” said Ann O’Loughlin, coordinator of Institutional Relations at the University. “I knew all this was coming and that there would be a lot of inconveniences, and so you just sort of accept it.”
Ray Jackson, a University senior civil engineer, said the University has a good rapport with C.S. McCrossan, the main contractor working on the road surface. He said good rapport has helped the project go smoothly so far.
“We’ve been trying to be proactive with schedules,” said Jackson. He has worked with C.S. McCrossan to keep 17th Avenue S.E. open for easier access to the University, especially Northrop Auditorium.
Residents in the houses along fraternity row say the contractors sometimes start construction work before 7 a.m. Jim Miller, president of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, said many of his house’s residents work the late shift and have trouble sleeping.
“They get a few good hours of sleep,” Miller said, “but after that, they just get what they can.”
Long-term effects of the construction are more distressing to Scott Peterson, a Sigma Chi fraternity member. He said contractors are removing many of the big trees along the road.
He said that sometimes the workers remove a row of trees, but leave one standing. That looks silly, Peterson said, adding that this has damaged the appearance of University Avenue.
O’Loughlin said the loss of trees caused the most distress among residents. “They had to take more trees than people would have liked,” she said.
Jackson said some of the chaos and noise is caused because several different contractors with different time schedules are working on the project. C.S. McCrossan is adhering to city of Minneapolis time guidelines, Jackson said, but the company has no control over the other contractors.
“There have been instances when (the other contractors) have probably done something to anger adjacent residents,” Jackson said.
Fraternities are also concerned they are losing publicity because the avenue is closed to traffic. Also, the road will not be usable for Homecoming festivities this fall.
“It’s hard to get your name out,” Miller said. He said that his fraternity put a banner on the back of the house to increase recognition.
Peterson said Homecoming will lack some of the tradition which has made it so much fun. The parade, which normally runs down University, will be moved to Fourth St. S.E. Fraternities on the row have decorated their houses in the past and invited other houses not on the row to come down and bring their alumni. This year it will be different.
“Part of the fun is having things go on right on my front step,” Peterson said, adding that the parade route “will just be a long stretch of parking lots.”
Jackson said the project is mostly on schedule. It is scheduled for completion in fall 1997.