The first step in creating a green space in the middle of East Tennessee State University began Monday with the closure of a road through the center of campus.
Ross Drive on campus was permanently closed to create additional green space and new pedestrian walkways in the center of campus, according to the school.
David Collins, vice president for finance and administration, said the short-term plan for the area now closed to vehicles will include putting down traffic barricades and then probably next week starting work on a traffic circle at the intersection of Alexander and Sherrod drives that will send motorists back toward West State of Franklin.
Until Monday, traffic could turn onto campus from State of Franklin and through the middle of campus to Ross Drive, which would come out on John Robert Bell Drive. The area being blocked off has long been planned for a campus green space with grass, landscaping and large-size, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
In a few weeks crews will start removing the 30 or so parking spaces in the planned green space area and replacing them with grass.
The State Building Commission will have to approve the plan for the green space and allocate the $1 million for the project. This should happen in July. After that, Collins said it would take about six months to get a design and begin construction of the final plan for the green space.
Collins said motorists are still used to taking the shortcut through campus. He saw some drivers turning around after meeting the temporary barricades Monday.
“So people are certainly going to have to get used to the new traffic patterns and all as they merge,” he said. “It’s like with any project, it will take people time to get used to the changes.”
ETSU President Brian Noland said in May when he announced the plan to make a green space on campus that part of the logic was to make the campus safer for pedestrians. With the closure of Ross, people will be able to walk across most of the campus and not encounter a vehicle.
A portion of Sherrod Drive will be available for loading and unloading in front of Ball Hall. Motorists will need to use Seehorn Drive or State of Franklin Road to drive between the east and west sides of campus. Parking for persons with disabilities is available in the circle area in front of Gilbreath Hall or on the south side of Sam Wilson Hall across from Lamb Hall.
The project should be finished by fall 2013.