The pedestrian bridge connecting the parking lot on Southern Avenue and the University of Memphis campus opened Aug. 21 for general parking use by students, teachers and visitors.
The long-awaited bridge began construction in April 2018 after concerns about students dangerously jumping through or crawling under stopped trains rose to the UofM administration’s attention as early as 2014.
Tony Poteet, the campus chief planning officer, said after much anticipation, traffic delays and nonstop construction, he expects that the university community will be excited for the bridge’s completion.
“It is going to be a great safety aspect to our campus,” Poteet said. “It will make the whole campus more accessible and convenient, rather than having to cross the railroad tracks that way.”
Poteet and his team planned to complete the bridge one week before school started. He said the process of the construction became difficult to the point where a lot of moving parts had to be approved before crossing the railroad in Memphis.
“We had a tremendous amount of utilities where we had to work with MLGW,” Poteet said. “We had to reroute gas, water and drainage lines that were located in the street, and then there was a tremendous amount of requirements for clearance of the railroad.”
The pedestrian bridge is a part of a larger project on campus to overhaul and renovate existing facilities and construct new ones. Poteet said a large amount of work went into completing the land bridge, parking garage and renovated dining facility for students to use this semester. The campus is currently working on the Health and Wellness center and plans to renovate its swim facilities.
“It is a process, we are a state institution and we are proud of that,” Poteet said. “We have the state building commission to approve any project over one hundred thousand dollars, we also have to have our budgeting approved by the Tennessee higher education commission. Then, we have to find a designer through the building commission and then go out for bid for contractors.”
Casey Allay, a student at the UofM, said the new additions on campus will be great for students.
“I think the parking garage is long overdue because trying to find a place to park on campus was a bit of a struggle, and with the new parking garage it’s not going to be as big of an issue,” Allay said. “Also, cars getting broken into was something you would hear about all the time, so maybe now with the new parking garage this will happen less often.
Other students such as Sam Morgan, who works in the Rec Center at the front desk student worker, and Hakim McCray, a music business major who lives in South Hall, look forward to the benefits of both easier access to facilities across Southern Avenue and the ability to avoid incoming trains.
“The main thing is that if the bridge is there, students have another way of getting here,” Morgan said. “People who work here, they will get on here on time because sometimes the train stops and students and workers alike will have to wait.”
To McCray, the pedestrian bridge represents a solution to what used to be long walking distances with a chance of interruption.
“I have always wondered why is South so far away from everything, and when the train stops I always get caught while everyone across would not,” McCray said. “However, with this bridge, I am very excited.”