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Interstate upgrades to affect footbridge

Feb. 16, 2001

I-35 construction may decide fate of 8th Street walkway

By KARA WILEY

Staff writer

A 94-mile stretch of I-35 running through Waco will have a new look in 2011 when expansion is scheduled to be completed -- meaning exits and entrances will be affected, including the Eighth Street footbridge.

Student Government passed a bill last Thursday asking Baylor to review the safety concerns associated with the bridge; however, proposals to change the bridge are already underway, said Ken Roberts, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.

'What we are going to do with that bridge is unknown at this time -- there are options to consider,' Roberts said.

Some of these options include replacing the walkway by widening and lengthening it or removing it completely.

Roberts said if it is removed the DOT would look at other options for pedestrian crossings.

'If it is closed we have the responsibility to maintain means of pedestrian crossing so that no one is injured,' Roberts said.

Roberts said if Baylor asks that the department of transportation close the bridge, joint meetings between Waco residents and Baylor will be arranged to discuss the issue.

'It is a public bridge -- everyone in Waco is a stakeholder,' Roberts said.

Roberts said, however, the department would be opposed to closing the bridge because of the safety concern for pedestrians who use the bridge to pass over the interstate.

'Will the pedestrians try to walk across the interstate or will they walk to another pedestrian crossing?' he asked.

Sherry Castello, a 1958 Baylor graduate who ministers and cooks at the Gospel Café, said students who want the bridge closed don't understand its purposes.

'Students who drive all the time cannot imagine the need for the bridge for those who cannot drive,' she said.

Castello said Student Congress' plea to close the bridge is a move toward isolationism.

'People in more mature positions will be able to see the bridge as necessary,' Castello said.

Not only will the Eighth Street bridge be affected by the interstates' expansions, but exit and entrance ramps leading to the interstate also face changes.

'As we widen it we won't be able to have as many entrances and exits,' Roberts said. 'Some will have to be closed.'

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