Dinkytown footbridge no longer in the dark

Allison Wickler

Students finally are seeing the light as they walk the edges of campus near Dinkytown.

When students returned to campus this fall, some found the wooden footbridge next to Sanford Hall – emblazoned with two giant, golden M’s – in the dark.

More than two weeks into the academic year, there still were no lights, which concerned some students.

English first-year Serena Brambilla said she uses the footbridge to go back and forth to her night class.

“I always walk with a guy,” she said. “If I was alone I would be a little freaked out.”

Facilities Management checked the lights Friday and found the underground cables that feed those lights were damaged, said Thomas Moran, senior electrical engineer for Facilities Management.

The footbridge lights are working now under a temporary system, but maintenance will begin to dig out and replace some cables Tuesday, he said.

Moran said Facilities Management didn’t know the lights were out before Friday.

They took readings on the lights this summer and they appeared to be working, he said.

Many students have been wary of using the footbridge this year because of a lack of light.

Speech-language-hearing sciences sophomore Hilary Zimmerman said she used it once at night, but because it was dark she now takes a better-lighted route.

Biology and sociology senior Elise Wehrman said she can feel the bridge shaking as she crosses, which is especially scary in the dark.

Jerome Malmquist, director of energy at Facilities Management, said the maintenance staff monitors campus for broken lights and other problems, but the two people on the night crew are not always working near the footbridge.

They often rely on those on campus to call the Facilities Management hot line and report malfunctioning lights, he said.

“We don’t let them run to failure,” he said. “We try to stay ahead of that.”

Deputy Chief of Police Steve Johnson said police and security monitors regularly report lights out, and that quality lighting helps people feel safer.

“Lighting improves awareness,” he said. “It enables people to be more aware of their surroundings.”

Malmquist said the University takes measures to ensure lights around campus work, including scheduling a walk around campus one night each fall to uncover new safety issues or needs.

“We don’t try to leave students in the dark,” he said. “That’s not our objective.”