The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 6, 2013

MSU tunnel project slightly behind

Pedestrian link project delayed slightly

By Amanda Dyslin
adyslin@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — It's a bit of a maze in the center of campus these days at Minnesota State University.

The fountain-restoration project and the “underground pedestrian link,” which will connect the Centennial Student Union with the Memorial Library, have caused quite a mess — dead, smack in the middle of the mall.

There are pathways along fence lines to navigate. A closed parking area is causing some longer walks to offices. And then there's the front entrance to the library that is completely inaccessible, meaning people have to enter on the north side, go down to the lower level, walk south, and then go up again in order to access the upper levels.

But many folks are taking the construction in stride, acknowledging that when the projects are completed, they're going to be pretty cool additions to campus. Leslie Peterson, assistant to the dean of library services, has been looking on the bright side.

“The cool thing is,” she said, “from the front lobby, you have a front-row seat to every bit of the construction.”

Project Manager Paul Corcoran said the plan is to have the tunnel completed by Oct. 22, which is slightly later than the last projected date of Oct. 15. That date also was later than originally planned due to a wet spring that set construction back.

The complex structural design has also caused some delays because of extra time needed to figure out how all the intricate pieces would go together, Corcoran said. And each piece of concrete had to cure a certain period of time before crews could move onto the next.

“It added a couple of weeks,” he said. “It's a unique project.”

Despite the mess, students have heavily supported the idea for the project, which will provide a warmer walk in the winter between the library and student union. Many also were excited last spring when they heard about the amphitheater.

There will be a grass ramp built up along one side of the tunnel, creating an outdoor amphitheater where bands, speakers and other entertainers will perform.

The projected Oct. 22 completion date is still weather-dependent, Corcoran said. The 10 rain days built into the schedule have already been used.

“I'm pleased with where we're at right now,” he said. “Certainly, along the way, with this (kind of) complex project, it gets stressful.”

Corcoran said crews are working on forming the roof deck of the tunnel. Shortly after that is complete, filling and grading work can begin.

“Folks will see a lot of change in the next month,” he said.

Sia Yang, a senior, goes to the library about three times a week. It was a lot more convenient when she could just jet across the mall and head into the front of the library from her class, she said.

“I don't mind walking more, but if you have a class, you have to rush,” she said. “Yeah, I'm really, really ready (for the project to be done).”

Corcoran said the crew is making an effort to get the front library access restored ahead of the completion of the whole project. He's hoping to have that part done by Oct. 4, and students will have a pathway to walk that will lead to the front doors.

In the meantime, Peterson said the library is open during its regular hours of service. The Maywood Avenue entrance on the north side of the building is being used as the main entrance, and there is signage up all around the area directing people to the doors.

“If you need the library, here we are,” she said.