Bridging the Gap:  Behind the Campus Rejuvenation and Beautification Project

Construction to the bridge on Elton C. Harrison drive near the back of a campus. 

Jodeci Ashford/DIGEST

Trees came down and machines whirled as work began on an ambitious campus rejuvenation project on the week of September 2. Part of a three-step plan to replace the temporary bridge along Elton C. Harrison Dr. and the road leading to the Agricultural Center, the project is scheduled to run from this semester to the last month or so of Spring 2020.

The three phases include a new main road leading from Mills Avenue to the service exit in the back of campus by the university apartments, a new bridge to replace the temporary bridge, and the aforementioned road towards the Ag. Center in addition to a new sidewalk along the road. 

The first part of phase one is clearing out the foliage and debris along the water way that bisects the campus and runs underneath the Ag. Center road, the bridge, and the pedestrian bridge by the Southern University Law Center. The water way in question is a water outlet for Scotlandville’s drainage system.

The bridge collapse back in 2012 was due to an undersized culvert, or underground drainage pipe. A large culvert for the water was inserted directly underneath the bridge to allow water to flow underneath unseen. Because the culvert was undersized, it was unable to handle the large volume of water the waterway regularly saw. The water got backed up and rose much higher than expected. As the water would gradually begin to drain, it would create a powerful, swirling vortex that overtime eroded the foundation, ultimately causing the bridge to collapse. To rectify this problem, the new drainage system will not only have a significantly larger culvert, the new one is about 2.5 times the size of the first one, but will also have four of them. 

The embankments along both sides of the water way of road leading to the Agricultural Center are also being cleared of obstructions to allow the water way to be seen by pedestrians. The plan is to turn the whole area into a picturesque area of nice green, lush greenery being contrasted by dark stones lining the banks. The area currently occupied by the green sinkhole is going to be filled in with dirt and be used as a potential path for pedestrians to walk over.

After the clearing is created, phase one also calls for the paving of the service road leading from the University Apartments to Mills Avenue and serve as a detour road during the months that the temporary bridge is being replaced. A checkpoint, lights, and a fence are all going to be installed to ensure student safety.

SUS Director of Facilities Planning, Eli. G. Guillory III wants to assure students and visitors that the safety and well-being of residents in the back of campus is of the utmost importance, “We are coordinating with campus police to ensure student safety. If there are any concerns, we will address them and we will remain vigilante.”

Phase two calls for the actual replacement of the temporary bridge. During this time, the aforementioned road to Mills Avenue will be opened and serve as the entrance and exit to the dormitories in the back of campus.

Phase three is the replacement of the Ag. Center road and sidewalks. This is an important step as the current road to the Ag. Center is sinking into the ground. While at the moment, there is no risk to students, the road has the potential to become a serious safety concern sometime down the line, so rather than wait, administration is thinking preemptively in replacing the road.

All in all, the service road is expected to be paved by December. The bridge on Elton C. Harrison is then going to be closed from around Dec. to the end of February, and the service entrance is going to be the only way to enter and exit from the back of campus. Construction will then start on the Ag. Center road when the bridge is completed and reopened in Feb. and will continue until about April. This is if everything goes absolutely perfect with minimal delays due to weather or other circumstances and, as such, is subject to change.

The Director of Physical Plant and Maintenance Department, Frank M. Pitts, wants students and visitors to understand that the timeline is flexible, “Change doesn’t happen overnight. Construction is a slow process that takes time, so please just be patient and understand the vision we are trying to achieve.” 

Mr. Pitts has also successfully lobbied for the machinery currently being used to clear the foliage by Elton C. Harrison and the Ag. Center road to be used to clear some of the trees by the pedestrian bridge by the law center, as well as the trash and debris under said bridge and throughout the entire waterway is going to be removed.

When asked about how he felt about the changes, President of the Student Body, Donald Dunbar, says that he is excited to see where Southern is going to be in a couple years, “The changes being made on Southern’s campus shows that administration is listening. It shows that Southern can change and evolve, and it makes me excited and proud that I am able to serve as the SGA president.”

The campus rejuvenation project is just one of many campus improvements that have been planned and/or executed. Southern is changing and attempting to modernize the campus, something that it desperately needs to do in order to compete with other institutions. So, on behalf of the Office of Student Media, students, please be patient and start picking up your trash. Administration is finally listening to all of our complaints and is fixing them, but the campus is still going to look horrible because there’s trash everywhere. Let’s do our part in rejuvenating the campus by respecting it and keeping it clean.

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