The City of Fort Collins and Colorado State University held an open house about the underpass at Elizabeth and Shields streets to answer any questions the public had about the project.
The construction will last from early December 2016 to August 2017, just before school starts. The section of Shields immediately south of Elizabeth will be closed for three weeks from February to March.
“The underpass will provide better access to the university and alleviate safety concerns created by a high volume of vehicles, bikes and pedestrians moving on and off campus at this and nearby intersections,” wrote Dell Rae Ciaravola, CSU risk and public safety communications manager in a CSU press release.
Though both Plum and Elizabeth are the most frequently used streets next to campus on Shields, Elizabeth was chosen due to the ease with which construction could happen there as opposed to at Plum.
“Plum is just a two lane street, there’s not even a center turn lane, then bike lanes, and sidewalks, and after that buildings,” said Tim Kemp, the Fort Collins Project Manager of Capital Improvements. “So in order to fit the underpass in on one side or the other it would impact one of those existing buildings.”
Kemp said the underpass itself is about 16 feet wide, and they need another five to eight feet on either side to build it.
Elizabeth, however, has two lanes going each way, and does have a center turn lane. There is also room to build in the parking lot that is used by Campus West Shops. The underpass will connect this parking lot to the pathway that connects Shields St. to the Rec Center.
Fred Haberecht, Assistant Director of CSU Facilities Management, said traffic will be affected, but the impact will be different based on what phase the construction is.
“The most impactful time will be in late February to early March, where there will be a full closure of Shields,” Haberecht said.
Haberecht said part of the construction involves placing a tunnel as deep as 18 feet.
“The permanent water table is at eight feet, so they will need to build a watertight tunnel, and to do that they need to close the road and drop in the pieces,” Haberecht said.
Despite the inconvenience Heberecht said he would rather have the construction done all at once.
“Then you have less problems,” Haberecht said. “For all of these projects that involve utilities and water table and current traffic, you really can’t build a grade separated crossing, especially an underpass, without a lot of inconvenience.”
Construction of the underpass is expected to be finished by August 2017, before students come back for the school year.
Reporter Stuart Smith can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @notstuartsmith.