Salt Lake Public Utilities is doing construction work on 1300 East that no one could miss.
The original plan was to finish the portion of the road in front of Westminster College’s campus before the end of the previous academic year. But work continued through the summer, and has now been a part of Westminster’s move-in day for the second year in a row.
The Westminster community has felt the impact of the construction in several different ways.
Commuter students have grown used to new routes and earlier mornings while students living on campus have gotten accustomed to night work and limited access.
Last year, water shut-offs were a common problem as pipes buried in the road were replaced.
“The water went off for a bit, and that was frustrating,” said Cali Corkran, a sophomore who lived in Hogle last year. “Literally, there was like, build-up of waste in the toilet and I was like, ‘This is really not cool.’ […] I can’t remember how long it lasted, but it was nasty.”
This year, night construction and the noise that goes with it is the bigger concern. Workers are done replacing the pipes and are now working on regrading and re-paving the road. All first-year students living in Hogle have had to get used to college life with this unexpected addition.
“Moving in wasn’t hard, really, but every day there’s fun sounds coming from 1300 that are just not great,” said Dylan Richmond, a first-year English major. “It usually starts around 8 a.m. and that’s my wake up call most days,”
Richmond also said that her roommate, the lighter sleeper of the two, has told her about hearing construction around 3 a.m.
Residents of Westminster on the Draw have also been dealing with the noises at night. Jake Wallace, a junior environmental science major, explained that construction on “side projects” has started across the street from Sizzler or just 25 feet off the main wall of the Draw.
Wallace went into detail about these projects, several of which starting around 11:30 p.m. But the noise doesn’t end once the sun comes up.
Metal plates now cover these projects in front of the Draw and “every time a car drives over them, it shakes the entire Draw,” Wallace said. “Basically, a lot of cars are going by at 5:30 in the morning, so I’m up at 5:30 right now because of these metal plates.”
Although frustrating, students have admitted that the construction might not be all bad.
“Honestly, it’s making walking safer because there’s no oncoming traffic,” Wallace explained. He hasn’t felt any issues regarding getting to and from campus since Draw residents no longer have to walk by the traffic of 1300 East.
Although the sidewalks are closed, so is the street. Wallace said that it’s very easy to simply walk on the closed street to school and home again.
Commuter students have also felt the change the construction brought with it.
Vanesa Barrett, a junior English and sociology double major, has been commuting to campus for the last three years. Her commute has gotten longer in the past two years, however, since she has to take extra time to find parking.
Barrett said her commute used to take just 30 minutes, but now she sometimes leaves a half hour earlier than that so she has time to circle around and look for a parking spot — effectively doubling her commute time.
Despite the added time, she’s taken a positive outlook on the situation.
“Obviously, I’m not stoked that it’s blocked off, but I actually prefer the route that I take now because it doesn’t feel as packed,” said Barrett, comparing her current route to her first year wading through 1300 East’s usual traffic.
Barrett’s adaptive attitude seemed common among students.
Richmond said she was most bothered by how long it was going to take but ultimately described it as “not a huge issue.” Wallace and Corkran both called it a “nuisance,” and “an inconvenience,” but were not bothered enough to actively complain.
Administrative Point of View
On an administrative level, complaints from students were few and far between. Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Karnell McConnell-Black was happy to report that no concerns have been brought to his attention in the wake of move-in.
“Given the construction, [move-in] actually went really well […] we always plan for worst case and we didn’t have to get to that place,” he said. He believes a few issues were dealt with in the Residence Life department, but otherwise move-in went smoothly.
On the first day of move-in the lead contractor on site even sent the whole work crew home at noon, so Westminster “wouldn’t have to worry about any construction at all,” McConnell-Black said. “It was very considerate, and we didn’t even ask for that.”
Westminster’s administration has been working with the city and Salt Lake Public Utilities closely throughout the project.
Arikka Von, Westminster’s director of strategic communications, detailed another instance when the city and its various departments working on the projects was attentive to Westminster’s needs.
This past summer the corner of 2100 South and 1300 East was becoming an issue for pedestrians, many of whom were traveling to or from Westminster’s campus, because drivers felt they didn’t need to be as careful since part of the intersection was closed off. Von communicated this problem to the city, and “they very quickly got flags out there so that our pedestrians […] could walk across the street.”
Westminster’s open communication with the heads of the project has meant that updates about the construction are spread to students about once every month or two.
These updates within Westminster’s system have kept things running smoothly and with few complaints; move-in day serves as an example. Additionally, Westminster’s website has alerts at the top of nearly every page and map that provide an overview of the project’s plan.
The city currently plans to have phase one of the project done in mid-October, but McConnell-Black expressed his hope for Westminster’s ongoing attitude when he said, “I think our campus is adaptable, and we can make it work.”