The portion of West Main Street adjacent to East Campus re-opened Thursday at 5 p.m.
The street had been closed for five months because of a North Carolina Department of Transportation project to replace the Campus Drive bridge. Originally scheduled for early September, the opening has been pushed back multiple times due to construction obstacles such as inclement weather. The street’s reopening will now allow traffic to enter East Campus from its main entrance and increase accessibility for students, faculty and the Durham community alike.
“The city and the state and Duke, as well, tried to minimize the inconvenience by rerouting traffic,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “The worst case projections did not take place and it seems like we got through this with a minimum of hassle.”
The road was slated to open around the time students returned for the Fall semester, Schoenfeld said. When the city notified the University and surrounding businesses that the original deadline would not be met, schedule changes were posted on the Duke Today website, however students were not notified through any official capacity.
“They said four months but, of course, it's been longer than four months,” said Donna Weaver, an employee at Famous Hair on Broad street in close proximity to the closed section of Main Street.
Williams said the University pushed back the original starting date of the project, which was intended to begin in the Fall of 2013. Following this schedule, construction would have taken up the majority of the academic year. The summer date was thought to be more convenient for students since they would not be on campus and it would take less time.
“I can’t wait for it to open,” Weaver said. “I wish I could use it right now. I'm ready to get off work, but maybe I’ll see if I can wait a little longer and come down Main Street.”
Weaver said businesses near the closed-off section were notified by letter of the impending construction but were told it would last only four months. But she added that the closure has not affected business for much of the Broad Street shopping center because of Whole Food’s popular presence and the shopping center’s busy nature.
Still, not everyone has regarded this construction as unimportant. Floyd Williams, project manager of the facilities management department, noted that though he has not encountered many complaints from the University community, he has read unhappy emails from Durham residents nearby to East Campus. The neighborhood around Markham Street has been particularly affected by detoured traffic.
“The folks that have suffered the most are probably the neighborhoods behind East Campus…the locals know their way around and know the quicker easier route is to cut through the neighborhood,” Williams said. “After tonight, they’ll get some relief.”
But the project has not ended entirely, Williams noted. The stone wall abutting East Campus is undergoing some minor reconstruction after suffering damage at the hands of the bridge construction. Williams said this is expected to be the final aspect of the project.