Few underclassmen at Boston University can recall a time when the campus landscape was not dotted with orange barrels and traffic cones. Indeed, for the past year and a half, construction has stretched for several blocks of Commonwealth Avenue, disrupting pedestrian and vehicular traffic. But the Comm Ave chaos is winding down, and come September, says Gary Nicksa, BU’s vice president for operations, students will be able to walk to class without circumnavigating construction equipment.
Nicksa says the first phase of the three-part project — replacing the sidewalks, installing planting beds, and reestablishing the curb from Kenmore Square to West Campus, just beyond the BU Bridge — is nearing completion. In the spring, he says, more trees will be planted between the MBTA tracks and the road.
The project, which began in summer 2006, is part of a Massachusetts Highway Department effort to make Commonwealth Avenue more attractive and more pedestrian-friendly. When the work is done, says Nicksa, one of the three traffic lanes on the westbound side of the street will have been eliminated, bike lanes will have been added, the sidewalks and T stops will have been widened, and additional trees and plants will create a green buffer between buildings and the street. Among other things, he says, the project is intended to result in a more even flow of traffic and safer pedestrian crosswalks.
“Right now, you find a great inconsistency in speed,” Nicksa says. “When drivers come out of Kenmore Square and the road opens up to three lanes, they accelerate, and when they hit the BU Bridge intersection, there’s a huge backup. By making the travel lanes consistent from the Boston Common to the BU Bridge, we’ll create a consistency in traffic, which will make it safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike.”
Nicksa says that the state’s contractor, McCourt Construction, is in close contact with University officials. “They’ve been extremely responsive to the University’s needs, particularly during major events such as Commencement, Matriculation, and move-in weekend,” he says. “Obviously, it’s caused a certain degree of disruption, but I’m actually pretty surprised at just how smoothly everything’s gone. We all look forward to its completion.”
The University has set up a Web site with news about the progress of the construction, and members of the BU community can sign up to receive e-mail updates as well.
Student Village II Right on Time
On West Campus, behind the FitRec Center, the construction of the 19- and 26-story towers of Student Village II is right on schedule. Peter Cusato, the University’s vice president for auxiliary services, says the residence, which will add 960 beds to the current on-campus housing, is scheduled to open in fall 2009.
The building’s foundation was laid and site utilities were installed over the summer, and the steel frames of the two towers were erected at the rate of about a floor a week. The final floor was added last week, despite the challenges presented by winter weather.
“It’s miserable in and around the building with the winds whipping off the river, and the higher up you go, the worse it gets,” Cusato says. “I stay below the third floor, but the workers just keep trucking.”
Cusato expects the building frame to be completed sometime in February, with construction of the inside to take an additional year and a half.
Vicky Waltz can be reached at email@example.com.