By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer, Video by Grace Smith | Broadcast Reporter
In the past few weeks, I-35 construction has focused on the overpass crossings on University Parks Drive, 4th Street and 5th Street, most recently destroying the path between Baylor’s campus and the stretch of fast food restaurants known at the Grease Pit.
“Beginning as early as Thursday morning, the Texas Department of Transportation plans to remove the northbound I-35 overpass at University Parks Drive,” a BaylorNewsFlash email said on March 24. “The Texas Department of Transportation plans to close 4th and 5th Streets and the pedestrian paths under I-35 as early as 9 a.m. Monday, March 29,” a follow-up email said.
Eric Eckert works in Baylor’s marketing and communications department and teaches on campus, which means he frequently makes the drive from Clifton Robinson Tower to the other side of the highway. Commuting to work from Temple, Eckert shared how he can’t remember a time in his 10 years at Baylor when he didn’t have to take construction into account.
“They have changed up that section of the highway and intersection so many times since I’ve been here, just due to improvements on the river and the walk, and when the stadium came along all that area has just been changing over those ten years,” Eckert said. “You never know what you’re going to get and you have to adjust.”
Having to drive two miles just to arrive at a location that was originally a quarter of a mile away, Eckert explains how there are certain workarounds he’s figured out to avoid construction.
“Now I get off [the highway on the 17th and 18th Street exit], and it’s interesting because I actually learn a little bit more of the community,” Eckert said.
Tyler junior Hannah Crowley explained how it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but also shared a few tricks she’s found helpful to navigate the streets around campus.
“[I’m] usually just using La Salle for most things or even Highway 6,” Crowley said.
Crowley shared how construction is a common reason for being late to class or work at least twice a week. With work being done on the overpasses, Crowley also said going to get food at the local fast food restaurants has been one of the biggest inconveniences.
“I literally can’t get to the Grease Pit and all I want is my greasy food,” Crowley said.
With emails from Baylor notifying students and faculty with updates and traffic information, Eckert explained how clear communication has been helpful. Knowing how long a road might be closed for or which streets to avoid has been one of the more “enjoyable” points of the construction.
“For the interstate to be torn up right outside my office, it was a little jarring, but again I think the university has done a good job in terms of communicating with us, giving us the resources and as best they can [in] giving us a head’s up,” Eckert said.
While the work on the overpasses is only scheduled to take up to five days of work, the remaining construction will take longer. According to an email from BaylorNewsFlash, southbound main lane traffic is set to be moved overnight on Wednesday. Staying in the loop, watching out for closures and being mindful of workarounds can help students and faculty move along with the construction and flow of traffic.
“If you are tuned into those resources that you are monitoring, if you’re looking out the window, you can see that things are happening and that you need to make some adjustments,” Eckert said.