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Construction nears end

September 20, 2012

As the 2012 spring semester came to a close for students, the Cascade Project was starting its transformation of Cascade Avenue. It is anticipated that in mid-October the project will be complete, which would be almost a month earlier than originally planned.

What makes the Cascade Project different from other construction projects is that this project was on a main road in front off a college campus, a road that typically had a high amount of traffic and consistent pedestrian use. Director of Public Works and City Engineer of River Falls Reid Wronski, said that the biggest challenge of phase one, the replacement of Cascade Avenue, was maintaining a fully operational construction site, but also making sure it was a safe environment for pedestrians.

Mike Stifter, interim executive director for division of administrative services, agreed that having “a six month construction window that tied up a main road was the biggest challenge.”

Over the summer the project progressed quickly ahead of schedule and under the allotted budget. Stifter said the only issues they faced were minor weather related issues like the rain that fell over June.

When students moved back onto campus, the project was surrounded by the campus community once again. The yearly new student move in day, which is normally considered a stressful time for students and parents, was planned down to the last detail to ensure that students and their families were not greatly affected by the project.

Freshman Lindsey Ogawa said, “It wasn’t bad at all — it was actually really efficient I felt.”

The night before she moved on to campus, Ogawa and her family had been emailed maps of which roads to use to get to her west side dorm. “I didn’t think it was super confusing, but I had someone who came and talked to me right away so that was nice and they told me where to go.”

Stifter explained that there were a variety of individuals who played a key role in planning the move in day, and that Charles Sowa, assistant director of Sport Facilities, was the point person when it came to regulating traffic and parking on campus for the new students and their families. He also noted that he had been on campus since 1999, working every move in day, and that this year was the “smoothest one [he’d] seen.”

Once moved in, construction began to be a part of student’s daily life.

Construction noise is a main concern for many on campus students, like student Riley Thorson, who said, “The main construction that bothers me is right outside the building,” after it had woken her up the morning before.

Even for those who don’t live on campus like commuter student Abbie Korish, the parking that was once offered on Cascade Avenue and is no longer available has affected her greatly. She deemed it “really annoying” that she could not always find a spot and that even if she did it would be far away.

Parking accommodations have been changed from being on Cascade Avenue to Q Lot, a lot specifically designed to compensate for the 150 parking spots lost on Cascade Avenue. The reason for moving parking from Cascade Avenue to Q Lot was to make sure that pedestrians could be safe when crossing the road because the vehicles parked along the road made the pedestrians less visible to drivers.

Stifter acknowledged the fact that the parking that was once free, and students now have to pay for, but also said, “I think a nice thing they did was give the two free weeks of parking for the commuters. I think the response has been positive.”

The lot maintains the standard University charge of 50 cents per half hour for parking. One third of the spaces in the lot are for students, faculty, and staff, who hold permits, and two thirds of the spaces are reserved for pay as you go patrons. Currently, the parking machines are only accepting cash, but soon the machines will be synced to accept credit cards as well to provide more convenience to the students. Even with these inconveniences, officials like Stifter and Wronski have received very few complaints about the project.

“We’re hoping that the vast majority of the people are excited to see the project come to an end and see the benefits it has to the campus,” said Wronski.

The Cascade Project grand opening is tentatively planned for October 12. Students can anticipate seeing the plants and more visual elements being added within the next couple weeks and again in the spring.