Students living in Spartan Village soon will be able to walk to and from campus through a new tunnel constructed under the railroad corridor.

With completion expected in late December, the underpass will provide a safe passage for pedestrians and bicyclists to UNCG’s main campus. It exits campus just south of the Oakland Avenue Parking Deck, at Forest Street crosses under Oakland Avenue and the railroad corridor, and ends across from the intersection of Lee Street and Glenwood Avenue.

Officials of the North Carolina Railroad, UNCG’s partner in the project, met with Chancellor P. Linda Brady on Oct. 25 to view the progress with Triad news media. Brady received a ceremonial check for $900,000 of NCRR’s $1 million contribution. Total cost of the underpass is $10.5 million.

“When we made the decision to expand the campus and to build new residence halls, we knew that access would be a critical factor,” Brady said. “We now have 600 students living in those residence halls. We wanted to ensure that not only students but faculty, staff and residents of the neighborhood had safe and efficient access to the campus.

“The only way that could happen would be to build an underpass and the support of the North Carolina Railroad has made that possible. We are grateful for their partnership.”

Scott Saylor, NCRR president, said the underpass is similar to one constructed at Elon University. He noted the complexity of the project, which allowed the tunnel to be constructed under four tracks without interruption of train service. The line is the major artery between Atlanta and Washington, D.C., he said, and about 40 trains come by UNCG daily.

“We’re very proud of this project,” Saylor said. “It’s a bit of an innovation and we appreciate the university making us a part of it.”

The underpass is equidistant between the only previously existing routes to cross the railroad corridor from campus: Tate Street and Aycock Street.

Residents of Spartan Village, UNCG’s 800-bed student housing facility, will be the first regular users of the underpass when it opens later this semester or early in January. But it will serve other UNCG projects in the future, such as the new Student Recreation Center and UNCG Police Station. It also will serve the general public, including the surrounding neighborhoods.

The underpass has been part of UNCG’s Campus Master Plans since 2001. Planners initially depicted it as a bridge over the tracks. In 2008, analysis revealed that an underpass was more appropriate because it would cost less and be more user friendly. Along with Spartan Village, it aligns with Greensboro’s revitalization plan for the High Point Road/West Lee Street corridor. The underpass is also designed to allow for an extension to pass beneath Lee Street if needed in the future.

Extensive security has been planned for the underpass, which will have cameras and lighting. Its most notable security feature will be the new UNCG Police Station next door, with construction to be completed in 2014.

Construction for the underpass started in 2012. Work has involved moving some 10,000 cubic yards of earth – 3,000 yards for the tunnel itself, 6,000 for the South Plaza on Lee Street and 1,000 for the North Access Ramp that opens at Forest Street. Rainy summer weather delayed the tunnel’s opening at the start of fall semester. Students living in the residence halls are using public transportation or walking to Tate Street to get to campus.

Story by Steve Gilliam, University Relations

Photography by Christoper English, University Relations