Tech will begin closing several streets on campus to vehicle traffic beginning this summer. These will be permanent changes to the campus landscape that were part of the master plan from February 2014.
“Peachtree Street will be closed to vehicles from Wings Up Way to A Street. Stadium Dr. will receive streetscaping but will remain open to vehicles. University Drive will be pedestrian-only from Stadium Drive to where it ends at Foster Hall,” Karen Lykins, Chief Information Officer, said. “Tenth street will also receive streetscaping.”
Streetscaping is defined as the appearance or view of a street. Lykins said it would include trees, bike paths and improved lighting.
There has also been an increase in the use of bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades/skates and other alternative means of transportation, according to Lykins. The areas closed to vehicles will allow safer use of these types of transportation.
“As further improvements occur within the campus, the development of Peachtree Street and the adjacent parking areas will become essential to the unification and expansion of the Campus as a whole,” according to page 14 of the master plan found on the Capital Projects and Planning page of the Tech website.
“In conjunction with the removal and relocation of all parking central and adjacent to Peachtree Street and therefore no end destinations to draw additional heavy traffic, the central section of Peachtree Street is proposed to be reduced to two non-oversized lanes and serve as touring and shuttle drive,” according to the Master Plan.
“Bike lanes and a tree lined median running along its center will aid in calming Peachtree and transforming the street’s current asphalt dominant character into that of a landscaped, pedestrian friendly boulevard. This central section of Peachtree could also evolve to a pedestrian-only concourse in the future,” according to the master plan.
Pathways within these malls are proposed to be pedestrian only, but will be constructed to accommodate emergency vehicles as well as service vehicles, according to the master plan.
“The goals for this project focus on safety and environmental improvements. Pedestrians are safer when foot traffic does not interact with vehicular traffic. The master plan emphasizes improvements that are safer for pedestrians,” Lykins said.
“I think many of the changes will certainly make navigating campus safer, and we’re so thankful that our campus leaders are considering the safety of all pedestrians,” Chester Goad, Office of Disability Services director, said.
While pedestrian safety was the main reason given for the changes, getting to the finished product will not be without growing pains and possible hazards, especially for those with disabilities. Goad stresses that advance public notice and communication are the key.
“In general any change to campus structure or pedestrian traffic has the potential to create barriers for students with a variety of disabilities. Temporary changes that are necessary for construction and campus improvements are less problematic when they are communicated in advance. I will note that campus communication regarding campus environment has improved through the years, but again the key is communication,” Goad said.
Currently there are as many as 20 full-time blind or visually disabled students who are generally able to navigate campus. Construction and work on campus improvements can hinder that, albeit temporarily.
“Advance notice is especially important for students with mobility-related and visual disabilities because they often travel “fixed routes,” Goad said. “Unlike non-disabled students who may be able to easily take a shortcut or an alternate route, disabled students often have less options. In most cases, they rely on sidewalks, curb cuts, crosswalks to navigate campus.”
Goad said that advance public notice is necessary so that students proactively seek out temporary alternate routes. He said that other options like the campus shuttle system could be used to eliminate barriers (even temporary ones).
“The access to parking lots will be changed, but they will still be accessible,” Lykins said.
The work will be done in phases to minimize the impact on the campus community. Work is expected to start in Summer 2021.
For a complete list of the capital projects master plan go to https://www.tntech.edu/capital-projects/master.php