Radical University Drive designs could improve pedestrian, cyclist safety

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Some big changes are being discussed for University Drive. The Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization accepted a study Wednesday for some "out of the box" ideas. If they proceed, or find the money for them, it would radically change the way the street looks and change the way drivers, cyclists and pedestrians travel down one of the busiest roads in town.

But, if all the concepts were developed they could cost more than $700 million. The most drastic design would be the University Boulevard concept.

"Four lanes of University Drive would actually go through a tunnel and be an expressway between College and Wellborn," said Dan Rudge, Executive Director of the Bryan/College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"The remaining two lanes would stay at the same level, one on each side of the road. That would open up the entire center section for a park or, potentially, funding through leasing air rights. There certainly could be buildings placed [there]," he said.

The University Boulevard project could cost $300 million to $450 million.

Just how feasible are these ideas? Ruge said that the idea of improving safety certainly registers with the Texas Department of Transportation.

"Well, safety is a big issue statewide. It's an emphasis area for the TxDOT. University Drive is a TxDOT roadway. They've already shown an interest in some of the concepts and are looking at ways we could potentially develop them and pay for them," he said.

Another idea would add an overhead pedestrian bridge around the intersection of University Drive and Texas Avenue. A circular walkway could be built separating bicycles and pedestrians from street level, while also providing a viewing area of the Texas A&M campus and Bonfire Memorial. It could also tie into Northpoint Crossing.

“I think it’s brilliant, but I think the issue would be just time and making it so you can get over," said Noah Smith, a Texas A&M Student who bikes through that intersection almost daily.

"It’d be really difficult for traffic and just getting to class. I think it’s great if we can get it done quickly, but it’d be expensive," continued Smith. He worries about how difficult it would be to get around all of the construction. Rudge said some of the ideas could be built on a smaller and more affordable scale.

"We can fall back on some of the underpasses and overpasses in key locations to try to provide safe access and not have the big expense of trying to create something completely different."

“The next thing in the process would be a two part study. One would be to do a more refined design to make sure that it's actually something that would work in the area and also to work on the economic side to figure out how we would actually pay for all those improvements," Rudge said.

Rudge believes work on some of these concepts could happen in the next five to ten years.

The University Boulevard concept.