Students at the University of Memphis remain frustrated with the high density traffic near Southern Avenue and Houston Street. The traffic has caused congestion for months after Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) closed the road to expand the main water line.
The MLGW crew started reconstructing the main water line in July, according to Campus Chief Police Derek Myers. The main water line is 50 years old and could not support the water pressure for commercial buildings, only for residential homes, said Senior Director of Maintenance David Medlock. The MLGW crew and the Memphis Fire Department are also currently working to install a new fire hydrant for the recreation center and parking garage on Houston Street.
“The new lines will provide water for fountains and restrooms plus water for fire protection systems," Medlock said.
Southern Avenue, between Houston Street and Goodman Street, has been closed since the MLGW crew began digging underneath the new student recreation center towards the recently built Hunter Harrison Bridge.
The MLGW crew placed detour signs, pointing traffic away from the roadblocks on Southern and Houston. Students can still get to campus along Park Avenue and Goodlett Street or off Patterson Street, according to Myers.
“Take Highland to Spotswood and come in from the west to get to those parking garages or the lots south of the tracks,” Myers said.
However, students parked behind the recreation center and the parking garage have cited stalled traffic up to 15 minutes. That heavy traffic has delayed students from entering and leaving campus, especially during rush hours.
With the entire construction covered in dirt and debris, along with water underneath the recreation center ascending onto the asphalt where the MLGW crew are digging, the road has become somewhat unstable for students to cross.
“Basically, they're tearing up the whole section, so you got to be careful, you know,” Myers said.
If students wish to cross over the construction site on foot, the Hunter Harrison bridge is the best route for safety. Installation of the main is nearing the finish line, but there is still no set date for when the section of the road will reopen.
“Obviously, there are more things than just the water line. So, I am sure when they dig, they have to be careful what they're digging around. And of course, if they find other problems, they've got to stop and take care of that ￼too￼.”
This will not be the last infrastructure upgrade happening in a high-traffic area. In the future, MLGW will close Central Avenue to expand another main water line there. Because of the heavy traffic and strain on parking at the University of Memphis, students should expect, and plan around, possible parking delays.
The MLGW crew replaced the main water line’s 6-inch pipe with a 12-inch pipe to support the water pressure for the new recreation center and Southern Avenue parking garage. MLGW's next construction venture will see the closure of Central Avenue to expand the street's main water line.