U officials prepare for fall’s influx of students

Major construction will force more buses and peds into crammed areas.

U officials prepare for fall’s influx of students

John Hageman

With major construction closing one of the main arteries of campus, University of Minnesota officials are preparing safety awareness campaigns and traffic mitigation for the arrival of thousands more students in September.

The closure of Washington Avenue in May for Central Corridor light-rail construction diverted traffic through some of the UniversityâÄôs narrow roads like Pleasant and Harvard streets.

Three additional bus routes have been re-routed to run through Pleasant Street, adding to what the University had already determined was the most foot-traffic heavy street on campus.

In preparation for the increased traffic, the University started using stoplights at the corner of Pleasant and Arlington streets in the spring.

The University had planned to erect more stoplights at the intersection of Pleasant Street and Pillsbury Drive this summer, but that wonâÄôt happen before school starts, said Sandy Cullen, an associate director of Parking and Transportation Services.

Until either temporary or permanent stoplights are in place, there will be some traffic police at the roundabout outside Nicholson Hall to ensure that traffic moves smoothly and safely, Cullen said.

Several bike improvements are also in the works for the street.

A bike lane will be added to Pleasant Street between University Avenue and Pillsbury Drive before school starts, said Steve Sanders, bike coordinator for Parking and Transportation Services.

Because Pleasant Street south of Pillsbury is too narrow for a bike lane, âÄúsharrows,âÄù which let bicyclists know to ride out in the street rather than hug the curb, were added in May, Sanders said.

Bike boxes, which designate an area for a bike to get a âÄúhead startâÄù in front of traffic, will also be added at the intersection of Pleasant Street and University Avenue in the near future, Sanders said.

Bicyclists can also take Pleasant Street against traffic in a designated bike line to get from the Washington Avenue bridge to the roundabout.

The bike improvements are âÄúa way to sort out a complicated traffic situation,âÄù Sanders said.

Tim Busse, a spokesman for University Services, said the school is preparing a construction awareness campaign that will roll out during Welcome Week. The campaign will include flyers, posters and chalk messages on sidewalks, with the slogan, âÄúSafety is easy, pavement is hard.âÄù

âÄúItâÄôs all safety rules that weâÄôve known for years,âÄù Busse said. âÄúItâÄôs all this basic stuff that I think people kind of forget a little bit when they get into a campus situation. WeâÄôre just trying to remind people of that, given the level of traffic weâÄôre going to see in and around campus.âÄù

Metro Transit staff will also be on hand during the first few days of school to hand out flyers and information on bus routes, many of which were changed due to construction.

âÄúWeâÄôre kind of giving a reset,âÄù said John Siqveland, a spokesman for Metro Transit. âÄúWeâÄôre just letting people know how bus service is going to be running now.âÄù

Bus drivers will also be getting a reminder that campus will become more congested once fall comes around, Siqveland added.

Freshman move-in

The area near residence halls may look much different than when freshmen visited campus a few months ago, but the University is trying to make it as pain-free as possible for all 4,250 of them to get to their new homes.

Before they come to campus, freshmen will receive an email with personalized driving directions, when to arrive and where to unload their belongings, said Susan Stubblefield, assistant director for Housing and Residential Life.

After unloading, parents will be asked to move cars to long-term parking at nearby ramps and lots, Stubblefield said.

The system was developed and refined in the years after Welcome Week in 2008, when students began moving in during weekdays instead of over the weekend, Stubblefield said.

This year, keeping traffic moving smoothly will be especially important, she said.

âÄúNow, because our space is so much more limited,âÄù Stubblefield said, âÄúwe have to keep the traffic flowing and get the vehicles into the longer-term parking areas.âÄù