Goshen College’s pedestrian underpass project is back on track.
The project came to a near-standstill last year after talks between the college and Norfolk Southern stalled when officials at the rail company told the college they wanted all other campus rail crossings closed in exchange for allowing the underpass to be built. The college has since received a letter from Norfolk Southern agreeing to the underpass with only one closing. According to GC Vice President of Finance Jim Histand, the project is now back to the preliminary engineering phase. Histand said the school’s goal is to have a final design completed in time for an October bidding process. First, however, a final decision on how the underpass will function must be made. The original plan was to include long access ramps for ADA accessibility, but that was scrapped in favor of elevators or a chair lift.
“It’s budget related,” Histand said. “The ramp system was very expensive in order to meet Norfolk Southern requirements. It has to do with the tie-back system in terms of how the approaches would be tied together to withstand the forces and pressure exerted by a train going over the tracks.”
He pointed out that the college no longer has any contact with the rail company now that the crossing closure issue has been handled. The only issue remaining with Norfolk Southern is how long it will close the tracks in order for the underpass to be installed.
“My understanding is there’s somewhere between a 12- and 24-hour closing, something engineering has to resolve directly with Norfolk Southern,” Histand said.
For GC senior Ross Weaver and his friends, crossing the tracks has never been much of an issue.
“I don’t think that we mind very much,” Weaver said. “I haven’t had to wait for a train too much this year, although it does make me nervous when I see people running or hurrying to cross the tracks.”
The train tracks run north and south and divide the college campus in half. Most of the academic buildings are on the west side of the tracks while the music center, student housing and athletic facilities are on the east side of the tracks.
Trains generally move slowly through the campus and the college has a solid record of safety. The only reported train-pedestrian accident happened in December 2009 when a student from Oregon was struck by a train just south of campus. That student was treated for minor injuries and alcohol was believed to be a contributing factor.
While trains rumble through campus several times a day, Weaver said he almost never gets caught by trains.
“I’ve got good luck I guess,” Weaver said.
Seniors Isaac Shue and Hannah Groff, while chatting in the student union, didn’t have the same luck.
“It’s annoying,” Shue said. “It’s not that big a deal that I throw a fit, but it’s a big enough deal that I’ll sprint across campus to beat it.”
Shue gets caught by trains about once a week, although it hasn’t made him late for class or other events. He was opposed to the project.
“I think it would be a good idea, but at the same time it seems like a waste of money,” Shue said. “I mean, why do it? Why can’t we wait two minutes? Why are we in such a rushed culture that we have to be somewhere?”
According to Groff, the trains are less a nuisance than part of the GC experience.
“I don’t really mind,” she said. “It’s like part of campus, and I think it’s something special that we have.”
She also said it leads to interesting situations.
“There may be a person that you’re normally talking to in the middle of the day, and now all of a sudden you’re both running with your bags,” Groff said.
“I mean, you’re not supposed to race trains, but that’s all part of the fun,” Shue said.
Goshen College’s pedestrian underpass project is back on track.
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