New construction projects at USM Focus on accessibility

Published 3:44 pm Monday, June 14, 2021

From a pedestrian pathway to additional parking, The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has launched a series of construction projects that will provide even greater accessibility and mobility to its Hattiesburg campus.

Dr. Chris Crenshaw, senior vice president for facilities planning and management, points out that the projects are part of a long-term bike and pedestrian master plan developed by a USM committee in conjunction with outside engineers.

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“These projects – particularly the pedestrian pathway project – help us provide convenient access for our students, faculty and staff, especially if they want to use an alternative means for accessing the campus outside of their vehicle,” said Crenshaw.

A majority of the work is being done on the western edge of the campus with the primary focus on Montague Boulevard. A Mississippi Department of Transportation grant from the Federal Highway Administration has enabled the University to begin construction of a pedestrian pathway along the north side of Montague Boulevard from 38th Avenue to Ross Boulevard.

Crenshaw notes that the grant will fund 80 percent of the $950,000 project that will offer a safer way for students to enter the campus from traffic-heavy 38th Avenue. USM will provide the remaining funds for the project.

“We have a lot of students who live in apartments along the west side of 38th Avenue,” said Crenshaw. “Currently, when they cross 38th Avenue they’re walking in the street because they don’t have a safe way to traverse the area to get to campus. This pathway will give them a much safer access to campus, and we’re very excited about this particular project.”

Projects underway include:

Montague Roadway Extension

This work includes demolition of the former Printing Center, which had not been utilized for several years. When finished, the roadway will feature a single-lane extension that will run one-way, from east to west, behind the Power House Restaurant, linking Forrest Avenue to Montague Boulevard. The project will also include the addition of sidewalks and metered parking spaces. Scheduled completion date is this summer.

Crenshaw says that safety was the primary factor in moving ahead with this project.

“Forrest Avenue runs between Walker Science Building and Johnson Science Tower. It’s essentially a dead-end street that ends at Cook Library or the Power House. We have delivery trucks backing down Forrest Avenue; we have students that are looking for parking spaces and they drive up there and try to do about a five-point turn to turn around and come back out. This new roadway will create basically a circular path around Johnson Science Tower for vehicular traffic that should help with congestion there.”

Montague Boulevard Multi-Use Pedestrian Pathway

The 10-foot wide pathway will run along the north side of Montague Boulevard, from 38th Avenue to Ross Boulevard (approximately 1,800 feet). The project is scheduled to be completed in October of this year.

North Campus Gateway 

Located at the corner of West Fourth Street and North 34th Avenue, the gateway is designed to resemble the Centennial Gateway at the Hardy Street entrance of the Hattiesburg campus. The project is scheduled for completion sometime this fall.

“We’ve always talked about the possibility of a marker for the north side of campus,” said Crenshaw. “In this case, an opportunity opened up that allowed us to put a marker in that spot. It will match the gateway we have at the front entrance to campus and really be just a smaller version of that particular marker. The project will also include landscaping, lighting, and a cross-walk across 34th Avenue.”

New Parking Lot

Approximately 280 spaces will be provided by a new parking lot at the corner of Montague Boulevard and Ross Boulevard. The project will include lighting, a sidewalk, curb and gutter and drainage improvement.

Crenshaw explains that the current projects fall in line with the University’s Master Plan that includes a westward expansion to 38th Avenue.

“We’ve been fortunate to complete several pathway improvement projects in the center of campus, such as the Pride Field Pathway, Lake Byron Pathway and the Armstrong-Branch Plaza,” said Crenshaw.  “With Montague being such a high-traffic area, it was necessary to enhance this area and improve the safety of students who travel this route to campus.”