September 8, 2006

Commutes Detoured as Thurston Ave. Bridge Closes

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Thurston Avenue Bridge, the main pathway to Central Campus for North Campus residents, is closing for construction today. This closing is one phase in renovating the bridge into a wider, safer, more pedestrian-friendly route through campus.

Despite the obvious obstacles it will impose on many, according to City Clerk Julie Holcomb, it was a step that had to be taken in order to ensure the safety of future bridge crossers.

The renovation will create two five-foot bicycle lanes, add two feet to both sidewalks and create pedestrian level lighting for nighttime users. In the process, the driving lanes will be narrowed by one foot each, making the bridge at the end of construction wider by a total of twelve feet. It will then be able to better support the large volume of people who cross it everyday.

The bridge will remain closed for all users until the estimated date of Sept. 29, when it will be reopened for pedestrians, bicyclists and southbound vehicular traffic.

“It’s not a project that could be done over the summer. There just wasn’t any easy way around it. Full closure is needed,” Holcomb said. “We realize that [Thurston Bridge] is the highest traffic bridge in Ithaca.”
The bridge has a traffic count of about 1,000 vehicles, 950 pedestrians and 50 bicyclists during its evening rush hours.

According to David Lieb ’89 ’06, assistant director of public information for Cornell’s transportation and mail services, there are detours in place for people to make trips from North to Central and vice versa. Pedestrians can take the suspension bridge or the Beebe Lake bridge, bicyclists can walk their bicycles across the Beebe Lake bridge, and drivers can use the same detour lanes as the TCAT buses. TCAT buses have been going through northbound detour lanes since construction on the bridge first began and will now start to take southbound detour lanes with minimal delay.

“It is difficult and inconvenient, but it’s a worthy investment,” Lieb said. “There are a lot of improvements [being made] with structure and how it carries traffic and other modes across the bridge.”

Fredrick Lenihan ’10, a resident of Mary Donlon Hall, is one of thousands affected by the closing of the Thurston Bridge. With a class in the Arts Quad almost every morning, he will have to readjust his schedule to be on time.

“It will take 20 minutes to get there instead of 10 minutes to get there. I have to wake up a little earlier,” he said.

Despite the change, Lenihan says that having to take a detour is not much of a nuisance.

“It’s a long walk anyway, so I suppose an extra 5 minutes isn’t a big deal,” Lenihan said. When asked how others he has spoken to about the bridge have reacted to the news, he said, “Some people say it sucks, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I don’t believe anyone else will have a huge fit about it.”