Pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized travelers will soon have a better alternative to getting through University of Florida’s campus.
A Florida Department of Transportation project, Campus Greenway Project, is constructing a 2.5 mile-long shared use path across campus in two phases.
The first phase will run from the UF Hilton driveway on 34th Street to the east side of Gale Lemerand Drive; while the second phase will pick up from Gale Lemerand Drive and continue on to the intersection of Newell Drive and Archer Road.
“I think it’s part of the university’s overall goal to promote bicycling, walking and transit use—and to make it safe,” said Linda Dixon, director of planning at the UF Planning, Design and Construction Division.
There were previous safety concerns with sidewalks and paths being too narrow to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as there being a few missing gaps, Dixon said.
The project is currently in its second phase, which raises a few concerns for students, faculty and staff who are worried about the natural areas that will be affected by the new path—in this case, the Bartram-Carr woods.
Megan Autrey, a UF finance student, thinks a shared use path can be beneficial, but can also disrupt the flow of nature. She feels that the money spent on the Campus Greenway Project would be better allocated to another project that is more necessary.
According to Michael Andreu, forest resources and conservation professor at UF, the nature on campus, especially around creeks and wet areas, provides an important function. These areas help to slow down water from surrounding paved surfaces and provide an area for water to be absorbed back into the soil.
Putting an impervious surface right in the middle of one of these buffer zones, areas created to enhance the protection of a specific conservation area, could eventually have a negative impact on the campus, Andreu said.
However, he feels the project will do more good than harm.
“This could have positive impacts,” Andreu said. “You’ll be getting more people out. There is an opportunity for people to walk across campus, bicycle across campus—they’re using less energy and getting some exercise.”
It could create a better living environment, an awareness and appreciation for nature, he said.
Although a few trees have to be cleared from the Bartram-Carr woods to create the path, Dixon assures that it will not cut directly through the area, but instead along the southern edge (between the woods and the creek just north of the NPHP building).
“There are some [trees] on the edges that have to be cleared to get the proper clearances, but that’s actually an area that already a lot of people traverse, and we had some vehicles go through there [as well],” Dixon said.
Although FDOT funding did not include a landscape budget, UF’s Lakes, Vegetation and Landscaping Committee will be working with the physical plant division to replant trees that were removed for the path.
The first phase should be finished and open for use within the next week. Phase two will be completed by March 2016.
Estimated cost for this project is about $4 million and is funded by the Transportation Alternatives Program.
“I’ve been getting generally good feedback from both students and employees,” Dixon said. “Of course there is always the disruptions during construction, but that’s soon to be over. I think we’ll all feel like it’s a project that’s worthwhile.”