The old adage to look both ways before crossing the street may not be enough for some University of Portland students looking to return home to the residence hall after the day’s class schedule.
Portsmouth Avenue, a recent hub of renovation and development activity for Joe Etzel Field and the Beauchamp Wellness and Recreation Center, separates three residential living facilities from the traditional campus boundaries. This year, the University’s public safety department, printing and mailing, media, information technology and campus residency services have moved or will move into newly renovated office spaces in the basements of Haggerty and Tyson Halls.
The shortest walking path between the academic heart of campus and the residences north requires navigating the University’s main parking lot, avoiding cars through the Portsmouth Avenue and minding construction activities of the Beauchamp Wellness and Recreation Center – leading some University of Portland students to accessibility and safety questions.
The office relocations have increased the amount of pedestrian foot traffic across the main parking lot and across Portsmouth Avenue, which runs along the new Beauchamp Wellness and Recreation Center.
“There’s been a couple of close calls in the parking lot,” said freshmen Alexander Blue.“People swing around the rows really fast. That terrifies me.”
Sophomore Jeffrey Lazatin disagrees.
“I feel safe in the main parking lot. I usually walk when there’s a huge flux of students. Most drivers are more careful because they see a lot of students walking through.”
According to UP’s Master Plan concerning parking and transportation, a total of 1690 parking stalls exist currently on campus: the main parking lot and Portsmouth Avenue street parking maintains a 611 parking supply capacity.
Blue and Lazatin live in Schoenfeldt Hall and cross Portsmouth Avenue every day. Parking stalls, everyday traffic and construction vehicles make crossing the street difficult.
When asked about the vehicle traffic around the construction site on Portsmouth, Blue said, “It definitely depends on the day. When the supply trucks come in, they’re swinging back and forth and I don’t feel as safe crossing the street.”
“For me, I always have to peek out before using the crosswalk,” said Lazatin. “Some cars don’t even see you until you peek out, and there’s no stop sign on their way leaving campus. They don’t see you because of the parked cars.”
“The portable buildings on the construction site are terribly placed because they create huge blind spots for cars,” said John Fisher, Junior and Resident Assistant. “You have to poke your head around. But I’m optimistic that once construction finishes it will be a much safer area for drivers and pedestrians.”
The Recreation Center is on track to finish in June and for the grand opening in August 2015. Yet, some students wonder about the safety of crossing Portsmouth Avenue even after construction concludes and with further planned development of the River Campus. The University proposed the creation of a gateway structure connecting the traditional campus to the new land developments near the river in the Master Plan (click here to see the Master Plan).
Lazatin feels Portsmouth Avenue will require more caution from pedestrians with the proposed gateway structure.
“There will be more traffic going around. Right now there’s only one stop sign at the crosswalk near the Rec Center and there’s not one at that same crosswalk for drivers leaving campus.”
“It’s definitely not well designed,” said Blue in reference to the pedestrian access points to the residences north of Portsmouth Avenue.”
Fisher thinks the gateway structure and the Rec Center bring balance to campus. “Right now we’re too centered on the rest of campus like the Academic Quad. Once construction finishes, it’ll be much safer for pedestrians and drivers.”
The University and ASUP has previously considered options addressing the safety concerns of Portsmouth Avenue, such as an illuminated crosswalk similar to the one installed near the main entrance in 2009 placed near North McCosh Street on the avenue.
Lazatin believes the University can make easy installments to make the area safer for pedestrians. “Maybe bring back that stop sign or put in speed bumps.”
Civil Engineering major Tristan Rowley agrees, “right now we’re lacking a stop sign on Portsmouth leaving campus. For a walking-heavy campus, we’re not too friendly for the people that live north of Portsmouth.”
On Monday, the University installed a stop sign for vehicle traffic leaving campus.
In the meantime, students anxiously await the completion of the latest campus projects like the Rec Center. Developing on and around Portsmouth Avenue will eventually address parking concerns as well as pedestrian safety as the UP campus expands towards the river.
Categories: Campus Politics