In a press conference on Thursday night, members of Student Senate addressed questions and concerns over the opening of so-called “Bobcat Lane.”
Bobcat Lane is the small route connecting Richland Avenue to Baker Center, right next to Porter Hall. “By opening Bobcat Lane, we would be increasing emergency traffic to the bottom floor of Baker University Center, Porter Hall and Grover Center,” said Mary Kate Gallagher, the Student Senate Commissioner for City and County Affairs.
Gallagher, along with Student Senate Treasurer Chris Wimsatt, heads the “Why No Oxbow” task force.
“There’s a problem with the first floor of Baker Center,” Wimsatt said. “It’s essentially the business center of the university, and it’s accessed by only a two-lane, narrow road.”
He explained that when Oxbow Road, the road that passes underneath the Richland Avenue Bridge, had first been constructed, ground had also been broken to build the Academic Research Center on West Green. Oxbow Road would have given quicker access to emergency vehicles and others to Baker Center; however, the road was truncated when the ARC was built. When the university requested that Bobcat Lane be opened soon after, they were denied by the city.
“We want to disregard all previous issues and denial that we’ve had before and what we’d like to do here is start fresh, open up a dialogue with the city and facilitate better access for students, emergency vehicles and everybody to get to the first floor of Baker Center,” Wimsatt said.
Concerns about backing up Richland Avenue traffic have been voiced, but Wimsatt said he is advocating for a right-turn-in, right-turn-out lane onto the avenue.
He believes that if traffic were allowed in and out of the lane, it would help financial growth in the area.
“Improved roads and improved access are really central to economic development,” he said.
When asked about the cost of opening the road, Senate members said they were unsure who would be paying for it.
“The money originally existed to cut the curb, when the road was first placed, but since then the money has been spent.” Wimsatt said. However, “it would be perfectly reasonable to suggest that the university should foot that bill, but ultimately the city’s going to have to chime in its dialogue as well,” he added.
Another concern that was expressed was the heavy amount of pedestrian traffic on Bobcat Lane, which may constitute a danger if cars and other traffic were allowed to use the road as well. Wimsatt responded that a crosswalk already exists from West Green to get to Baker Center.
“The reason that Oxbow Drive is the most expensive sidewalk is because it’s not being driven on by cars,” he said.
Gallagher added that students who currently use Oxbow Drive to cross Richland are jaywalking. “We’re just advocating for student safety. We want them to use the crosswalks,” she said.
The conference ended with Wimsatt’s indication of fulfilling a campaign promise. He said the opening of Oxbow bridge was a very popular aspect of RSVP’s platform. “I would be remiss not to at least approach it,” he said.
Gallagher added that they want to hear students’ opinions. “We are currently looking for student input on what students think about opening Bobcat Lane,” she said. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.Share