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Walkway makeover more than necessary

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JULY 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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The reconstruction of the T. Anne Cleary Walkway has been going on since April 25, just weeks before most students finished up their final exams and headed home, or elsewhere, for the summer months.

The project is estimated to cost $524,000 with $100,000 devoted to concrete repairs and replacement and $55,000 for granite sidewalk pavers and benches for the Blank Honors Center's new outdoor patio, as reported by The Daily Iowan.

The construction, which has caused several sidewalk and building-entry closures, is necessary to address maintenance issues such as deteriorating brick, as well as making parts of the walkway leading to the Chemistry Building entrance more handicap accessible. In addition, the storm-waters systems near the walkway are also being improved.

At times, it can be hard to determine what university projects should or should not be funded — and in what order — but doubtlessly, this seems like something that would benefit the University of Iowa and its patrons.

The brickwork, being done by Calacci Construction, is supposed to replace deteriorated bricks and concrete lining the path and its surface. Also, viable old bricks are going to be reused in the smaller brick sections, while damaged concrete will be repaired.

Furthermore, underneath the walkway is a steam tunnel that was discovered to be in bad shape once construction began. Members of the Calacci team had to create extra support for the tunnel so it wouldn't cave in on them during the construction.

Whenever a system gets outdated or costs more to maintain than its initial cost, it's time for a change. Reducing costs is a good thing; repairing old and battered infrastructure is even better. When both are accomplished, it's a win-win situation.

John Adam, the Calacci project manager, told the DI in an interview that the Cleary Walkway hasn't received renovations like this for roughly 15 years.

The railroad-tie planters, which were installed temporarily about 20 years ago, are also being removed from the walkway because they are starting to fail. Needless to say, if something isn't serving its function anymore, it needs to go. Removal of the planters cuts costs in trying to maintain the older ones.

The accessibility improvement is a huge plus for students, staff, and visitors who require accessibility assistance. The stairs that used to lead up to the Chemistry Building's east entrance have been removed and are being replaced with an accessible entryway.

This corresponds to the university's Facilities Accessibility Plan, whose goals are to accommodate the needs of employees, ensure access to university services, provide a more accessible campus environment, and improve building accessibility.

Some could argue that the project doesn't appear to be purely for fixing and improving maintenance and accessibility issues, and to a degree, they would be correct. The Blank Honor Center's patio will be the building's newest addition after the construction is complete. The Blank Honor's Center, which cost around $14 million and has won at least two architecture awards, already sports its own third-floor sundeck (which overlooks the walkway), student art gallery, reservable group study rooms, independent study space, and a stocked kitchenette, whose use is free for all Honors students.

Improvements to these hardly seem necessary considering their costs of construction and how recently they were completed. However, these improvements provide both a necessary and aesthetic function. The overall good in this project far exceeds a few superflous details. You don't get rid of the luxury sports car because it has a leaky tailpipe.

Despite the unexpected obstacle of the steam tunnel, the biggest challenge has been containing the cost of the project and doing it as cost-effectively as possible, which the crews and administrators have done, as reported by the DI.

The construction is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 10, just in time for the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. By that time, students and staff will be able to enjoy a much-needed improvement to the campus.


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