Construction on Northside making progress with parking circle, quadrangle renovation

Facilities Planning & Construction has nearly finished its latest project: restructuring vehicular traffic patterns near University Drive and Seneca Hall and improving the courtyard of the Seneca-Ontario quadrangle.

"Unforeseen conditions" delayed the project, said Jeffery Kaplan, director of facilities planning and construction. He estimated a completion date of early to mid-October barring weather-related challenges.

"We had hoped that the heavy construction would be finished before the start of classes," said Celia Easton, dean of residential living.

"Going into the project, we knew it wouldn't be totally done [by September]," said George Stooks, assistant vice president of facilities and planning. "But we did hope to finish the heavy parts before classes."

Two unexpected delays pushed back the project's completion date. According to Easton, workers ran into a complication with water main infrastructure while digging near University Drive. Additionally, the soil in the courtyard was found to be of a different composition than expected. In each of these cases, said Stooks, the office of the state controller had to approve a change order, resulting in the delays.

Both of these complications have been handled and the project is back on target, Easton said.

According to Kaplan, the project is "the final element of the north campus master plan" that he helped develop over five years ago.

In order to improve traffic patterns near University Drive and Seneca Hall, parking lot D will be reduced in size by about 50 percent, Stooks said. Replacing that part of the lot will be a traffic circle branching off from University Drive. The new loop will allow students, parents and facilities to park in close proximity to Seneca and nearby residence halls during move-in. "There also may be some kind of temporary parking in the circle," Stooks said.

New pull-offs in front of Erie Hall will replace the service street that formerly ran parallel to that building.

The Seneca-Ontario courtyard will be modeled after the courtyard between Wyoming and Allegany Halls but with some improvements including a reduced use of concrete, Kaplan said. Canopies will be installed outside of the buildings forming the quadrangle. "The canopies are an architectural characteristic which will tie together the newer buildings with the older ones," Kaplan said.

The stairs rising from Seneca toward Genesee Hall were eliminated. "Any time we can eliminate steps in this environment with the hills we have and the snow we get, we benefit pedestrians," Stooks said. "In that way, this helps us with accessibility."

Some students have been inconvenienced by the noise of early morning machinery. Easton said that the 8 a.m. start time for loud work was a compromise because the later the workers start, the more likely they will be working outside during the hottest hours of the day.

"I appreciate the students' patience with the noise," Kaplan said. "But there was simply too much construction to completely finish everything before the beginning of classes."

Easton said she understands that the digging can be a disturbance for students while classes are in session, but said that the finished projects will be worth the inconvenience.