By Holly Shok
SHEPHERDSTOWN -- On the first day back from winter break, Shepherd University students were quickly filing through the freshly completed underpass connecting East and West campus as though they had always done so.
Even as the band ushered in the day's guests, including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, students sidled through in groups or alone -- cellphones out, heads down, headphones in -- as if they had always been afforded the luxury of not having to cross a major highway on the way to class. But on Jan. 7, the university held an official opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for the pedestrian underpass, situated underneath W.Va. 480.
The $5.65 million project, which commenced in January of last year with relocation of utilities, was aimed at eliminating pedestrian crossings and constructed 25 yards northeast of the previously existing pedestrian crosswalk.
"Safely crossing Route 480 from East to West Campus has always been an issue, ever since the first building was built on West Campus, Shaw Hall over here about 40 some years ago. Since that time we've made numerous surface applications, like painting lines and putting in blinking crosswalks and adding extra lights, and over the years we've talked about overpasses and underpasses and those items were always thought to be not possible, too expensive or just impossible to construct," said Director of Facilities Dan Yanna. "That is until just recently."
The project did not come without its challenges, however.
Dr. Suzanne Shipley, university president, offered thanks to the three families whose backyards were affected by the construction for six months.
"And of course, our dear friends, the Asam family who allowed us to put a highway straight through their [inn] property," Shipley said of the Bavarian Inn owners. "Not many owners would be so generous."
Construction and infrastructure relocation plans, in addition to guidance through the West Virginia Department of Highways' approval process, was supervised by Martinsburg engineering firm Alpha Associates Inc., Yanna said.
"One of our most important relationships and partners was with the Bavarian Inn. The Department of Highways required us to keep Route 480 passable in both directions," he said. "That would not be possible without some form of a bypass."
That bypass was made possible through use of the inn's property. A detoured traffic pattern additionally disturbed Shepherd Grade Road.
The general contractor of the project was C. William Hetzer Inc., of Hagerstown, Md.