The intersection of Alexander Street and University Place that faces Forbes College will reopen as a roundabout on Monday morning after several months of construction, meeting the planned deadline despite inclement weather.
The new traffic circle is ‘Phase 1’ of the ongoing Arts and Transit Neighborhood, a $300 million University project set to include new rehearsal and performance spaces as well as a permanently relocated Dinky station.
The roundabout offers an illuminated, motion-activated crosswalk rather than a stoplight.
“Given the extraordinarily cold temperatures and the snow that we’ve had thus far, I’m very pleased and really proud of the team that’s out there, working really hard to stay on schedule,” Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget said.
Although the pedestrian route to the Wawa convenience store, a popular destination for University students in search of late-night snacks, will no longer be obstructed by metal fences, the sidewalk on the east side of Alexander Street will remain closed and vehicular access to the reconfigured Wawa parking lot will be restricted to one side of University Place. The new Wawa store is set to open next fall, and will be located within the Dinky transit complex around 450 feet from the station’s original location.
Appelget noted that a team of University correspondents stays in touch with Wawa representatives to ensure sufficient signage and communication with the general public about possible detours and traffic changes. Appelget also said that most of the store’s customers are locals who are likely to have received direct announcements about any logistical changes.
“I believe that the primary audience that uses the Wawa regularly knows that it’s still operating and they know that they’re going to be there and have a new store by the end of this year,” Appelget explained.
However, a Wawa manager, who was granted anonymity in order to freely discuss the situation, said that the construction certainly hurt the business even though communication was spot-on.
“There’s no two ways about that. It was impactful, you felt it. It wasn’t something that could be avoided, that’s for sure,” he said of the apparent drop in consumers.
Students living in Forbes College were directed to take one of two detours to reach the main campus during the construction period. Master of Forbes College Michael Hecht announced in an email that students should expect, on average, an additional 30 seconds to their daily commute.
“I definitely think it’s more than 30 seconds,” Forbes main inn resident Lulu Chen ’17 said, although she added that the few extra minutes on her daily commute were not a significant burden.
Chen also said that the construction did not seem to affect the number of visiting students from other colleges.
“I think [students] were reluctant to come in the first place because it’s Forbes,” she said.
Maggie Kent ’16 noted that the construction made going to the Wawa much more circuitous, so she went there far less often than she had before construction began, when visiting the convenience store was easier.
“It’s more of an inconvenience than anything,” Forbes Annex resident Chris Hay ’17 said, adding that his daily commute was not significantly longer. “I feel like I knew what was going on, especially with the email updates.”
Hecht noted that future construction will be less of an impingement on Forbes residents because it will take place farther away.
“I think people have been real troopers about it,” Hecht said of the construction. “I got the sense that this year’s students whined about Forbes being far away far less than they have in past years.”
In addition to the roundabout, the performing art facilities set to open in the fall of 2017 will further reduce rush hour traffic, project officials predict. They explained that the students and faculty who would be making use of these facilities do not follow the traditional working hours of University staff, whose offices used to occupy the site.