Pedestrian tunnels still underway

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Completion date not guaranteed, Phase Two in progress

Construction worker Jaimie works on one of the tunnels being built behind the Integrated Wellness Complex on Winona State’s campus. The tunnels could be operational within one year, or as soon as the fall 2017 semester. (Photo by Kilat Fitzgerald)

Construction worker Jaimie works on one of the tunnels being built behind the Integrated Wellness Complex on Winona State’s campus. The tunnels could be operational within one year, or as soon as the fall 2017 semester. (Photo by Kilat Fitzgerald)

Kilat Fitzgerald / Winonan

The light at the end of Winona State University’s pedestrian tunnel project is slowly revealing itself after years of planning and construction.

Though a solid opening date has not been confirmed, if Mother Nature permits, the tunnels could be operational within one year or as soon as the fall 2017 semester.

The work moves forward despite the recent departure of Winona State’s Planning and Construction Director, James Kelly, earlier this year. Taking over the position as Interim Planning and Construction Director is Lisa Pearson, who will continue to maintain her duties as arboretum director. Pearson now represents Winona State as a project manager among the construction team.

Derek Bute, a 25-year-old National Guard medic and exercise science major at Winona State, died last January after being struck by a train while crossing the Huff Street intersection near the university’s campus. The construction of the pedestrian tunnels began during the spring of 2015, and Bute’s death increased awareness on the importance of the tunnels.

The goal of the pedestrian tunnel is to provide a safe passage which bypasses any oncoming train. The construction has been a loud presence behind the residence halls of Kirkland and Haake in the past. Phase One involved workers from CP Railway and Kramer Construction installing the two concrete culverts underneath the tracks, Pearson explained.

The finishing touches of Phase Two, which involves the creating of a network for the tunnels to be safely accessed, are still being implemented.

Phase Two includes the forming of ramps leading to the tunnels and other concrete work around the structure, making a zigzag that leads into the maw of the tunnel.

Echo is the construction company currently building this part of the structure.

Consistent rain can slow progress in some regards, however it does “get the frost out of the ground, so they can work the soil and do the back filling, which they’ve started,” Pearson said.

Jaimie, one of the construction workers at the Johnson Street site who wished to only be referred to by his first name, says he enjoys the excavating portion of the work.

“[The rain effects us] a little bit, not too much since we’re working in sand,” Jaimie said.

The finishing of this part of the project will mean the beginning of another, as landscaping, restoration and the installation of security cameras will be next on the to do list.

“We’re not guaranteeing anything yet that’ll be open this fall. We hope that it will be, but we have to make sure everything is water-proof and the way that we want it to be,” Pearson said. “We want this to be perfect before we let any students go through it.”

By Kilat Fitzgerald

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