Thursday, July 18, 2013

Continuing Transformation: UTEP Construction Projects Advance

Crews are working on multiple projects throughout the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) campus, helping make the vision that officials have been promoting for the school’s future a reality. And in just over one year’s time, the campus may begin to look dramatically different than it does now.
A large area of the UTEP campus, currently under construction, will become Centennial Plaza, a central gathering space adjacent to the Student Union. It is scheduled for completion by fall of 2014. (Construction photos courtesy of Jonathan Macias)

From the Schuster Avenue project on the southern side of UTEP to the projects all over campus helping to make the area more pedestrian friendly, visitors to the school today will encounter what can be considered a large construction zone.

Construction crews at the Spur 1966 project along Schuster Avenue are currently working on the roundabout, laying the foundation and retaining walls for the pedestrian passageways beneath future vehicular traffic. The roundabout will control traffic from four directions, including a new westward extension of Schuster that will create an overpass that crosses Interstate 10 and connects with Paisano Drive. Students and visitors will walk between the campus and parking areas using walkways beneath the roundabout.

Transportation officials hope to have the entire 0.7 mile Spur 1966 project completed by August 2014, though the roundabout may be ready in time for this fall’s school semester. The $31 million dollar project is proceeding on schedule, according to recent updates at UTEP’s On the Move website (www.onthemove.utep.edu).
Concrete and asphalt have been removed to make way for green spaces and pedestrian amenities at the future site of Centennial Plaza. 

More towards the center of UTEP, work continues on what the school is calling its “Campus Transformation,” an extensive project to create a pedestrian oasis for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. New green space will replace current streets and parking lots in many spots, and vehicular traffic will be extremely limited within the campus core. Approximately 10 acres in total will be affected.


Currently, crews are working on creating Centennial Plaza, a large gathering space in the middle of the school grounds, bordered by the Union, Geological Sciences, Psychology, and Administration buildings. Construction will remove current streets, parking lots, and concrete areas to reveal a more natural environment. The plaza will "include a large open area reminiscent of urban plazas located across the Paso del Norte region and in Mexico, where residents congregate and celebrate life."
Centennial Plaza will feature native flora such as mesquite trees. (Rendering: www.onthemove.utep.edu)

Chain link fences and temporary pathways currently surround the area, though crews are moving quickly on the transformation. The plaza will have the capacity to host large groups of people, such as Minerpalooza which hosts more than 30,000 people, according to the On the Move website. The plaza is expected to be completed by fall of 2014.

Earlier this year, the Campus Transformation work began on Wiggins Road where crews started construction on a pedestrian friendly plaza that will connect the University Library and the Health Sciences and Nursing Building. The plaza will include amenities like curving benches, shade trees, and solar-powered light fixtures. Vehicles will still be allowed to pass through the area once completed, but the roadway will become a weaving street that will force cars to slow down.
Work on Wiggins Road continues.

More recently along Wiggins Road, work has begun on constructing eight to ten foot sidewalks, shade structures, and landscaping features which include bioswales, cutouts along the sidewalks that will be planted with trees and vegetation which will help slow down rainwater as it travels towards Rim Road.

In all, eleven projects are outlined in the school's plans and include Centennial Plaza, Lhakhang, Leech Grove, Eastern Gateway, The Arroyo, Miner Alley, Old Main / Circle Drive, Union West, Wiggins Road, Psychology Building, and Hawthorne Street.
Shade structures have been installed to protect pedestrians from the elements.

UTEP is using its On the Move website to keep the public informed on current and coming construction projects and includes maps and suggested routes, visitor information, announcements, and information on how event venues are affected.

More information: www.onthemove.utep.edu

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