Getting around campus — particularly to and from the Northern Academic District and the “Cage” and Duck Pond Drive Overflow Lots — just got easier thanks to a new six-foot-wide asphalt pathway along Duck Pond Drive between West Campus Drive and Smithfield Road.

The new pathway will help enhance pedestrian and traffic safety while providing an accessible route through an area where a sidewalk did not previously exist.

Responding to increased pedestrian traffic along Duck Pond Drive, the pathway was created through a coordinated effort among the Office for Equity and Accessibility; Division of Finance; Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities; and Enterprise Administrative and Business Services.

“With construction taking place in the North Academic and Perry Street regions to enhance long-term academic and transportation offerings and the shift to increased parking in the Cage and Duck Pond Lots, we have seen more students traversing Duck Pond Drive this semester. With safety top of mind and nearing winter’s approach with its risk of snow banks and slippery roads, we had to quickly identify and implement a solution to improve safety, mobility, and accessibility,” said Lynsay Belshe, vice president for enterprise administrative and business services.

The pathway is prepared by members of the heavy equipment team. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.
Leveling the ground for the pathway. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.

Led by Bob Broyden, associate vice president for campus planning and capital financing, stakeholders from numerous operations units established an optimal pathway that could be enacted quickly and complement long-term campus planning efforts.

The group pinpointed a near-term solution: an asphalt pathway that runs along the Virginia Tech Golf Course.

With shorter days and winter weather on the horizon, as well as the seasonal shutdown of asphalt production, the solution was accepted less than a week after the proposal was submitted by Broyden.

“Asphalt vendors and installers reduce and stop activity in the winter because pavers use a hot mixture of asphalt. If ground temperatures are too cold, the asphalt won’t compact properly and reduce the lifespan of the asphalt,” said Anthony Watson, director of facilities operations services and events and deputy to the assistant vice president for facilities operations. 

Soil compacted by a roller prior to asphalt paving. Photo by Sarah Myers for Virginia Tech.
Asphalt is raked on the new pathway. Photo by Meghan Marsh for Virginia Tech.

“The pathway funding request received unanimous approval among Virginia Tech leadership, underscoring a universitywide commitment to safety. The responsive and synergistic approach among campus partners was vital in getting this initiative funded and construction underway within weeks - and before winter in Blacksburg,” said Broyden.

While the new pathway isn’t perfect, for example, some slopes are slightly steeper than ideal gradation to be considered truly accessible, it is a working solution until a permanent route can be installed as part of future campus development in the Oak Lane area.

The traffic flow along Duck Pond Drive will transform with additions to Oak Lane, the Global Business Analytics Complex, Infinite Loop, and other capital construction projects identified in the Campus Master Plan.

“When planning for the long term, we sometimes need to carry out temporary solutions to get us there. The permanent pathway solution would include an in-depth transportation study of the area to ensure alignment with our infinite loop, and integrate with our universal design principles,” said Liza Morris, assistant vice president for university planning and university architect.

Heavy Equipment Operators Matt Cavanaugh (left) and Pat Saylors (right). Photo by Meghan Marsh for Virginia Tech.

In totality, from inception to completion, the project took less than three months. The needed pathway and working group were identified by the end of August, by Chris Kiwus, vice president of campus planning, infrastructure, and facilities. The pathway proposal was presented to leadership in early October. The pathway’s construction was finished before the Thanksgiving break. And pedestrians were able to utilize the pathway while it was being developed to help mitigate the traffic concerns. 

“It was rewarding getting to see students and golf course visitors use the pathway as we were building it. We’d get thumbs up and waves,” said Pat Saylors, heavy equipment operator. 

Improving mobility and pedestrian safety on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus remains a high priority for units within the administrative enterprise. The university community is encouraged to report physical barriers via the Virginia Tech Accessibility portal.

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