Staff Editorial: Overpass construction is an inconvenience to all

As classes begin, students approaching Danforth Campus from the north will be faced with an unpleasant surprise as they encounter the now-closed Overpass for the first time.

Over the summer, construction crews began to widen the Overpass to allow for separated pedestrian and bike paths. Once completed—currently projected to be sometime in late October—the new Overpass will be safer and more accessible than its predecessor. Until then, however, it presents a massive headache on several levels.

First is the simple matter of inconvenience. Shutting down the Overpass cuts off the primary commuting path for students who live in the Lofts, Greenway apartments or any number of buildings in the area north of campus. This adds time to their campus commute and will create more congestion on the few alternate routes to campus, and generally makes it more difficult for them to get to classes.

This problem applies in the opposite direction as well: the Overpass is the start of the primary path from Danforth Campus to the Delmar Loop. While not exactly out of the “Wash. U. Bubble,” going to the Loop is a fun and quick way for first-year students to get off campus, but the construction will force them to either go out of their way to take Big Bend Boulevard or Skinker Boulevard, and, as any student living in the Skinker DeBaliviere neighborhood will tell you, the last thing anyone needs is more traffic on Skinker.

We realize that these detours are fairly minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of things. On a more serious level, however, closing the Overpass also raises safety concerns. The Overpass feeds into the Centennial Walkway, a well-lit, easy-to-monitor pathway that is supposed to provide a safe route home for students who live in the area north of campus. That late-night foot traffic will now be diverted to areas that are not as familiar to students and may be harder for the Washington University Police Department to consistently look after, in part due to the fewer blue light phone stations along the alternative routes when compared to the Centennial Walkway. This, in turn, will make it less safe for students who return from campus late at night to walk home.

Because of the safety implications, we urge Washington University administrators to help students safely navigate it. It is important that the University keeps students regularly informed on the progress of the construction and which recommended alternative routes are open and accessible.

Additionally, everyone should be made aware of available transit options to and from campus, including the St. Louis Metro’s Green Line and the Campus2Home shuttle. If possible, it would also be helpful to expand the schedule for University-owned options like Campus2Home to ensure everyone has an opportunity to take advantage of the transportation options at their disposal. With the Centennial Walkway and Overpass shut down, it becomes more critical than ever for students to be aware of all their options and for the University to provide clear, easily-accessible information.

Eventually, the expanded Overpass will prove to be a net benefit to students living north of campus. Until then, however, the University must make sure that the construction process is not to their detriment.