Expect Bissell, Union, Welch roads to reopen by Aug. 10

Crews work on a new Bissell Road surface

This section of newly poured Bissell Road (looking north from Hoover Hall) illustrates the narrower width of the road, intended to create space for wider sidewalks and promote pedestrian safety. Photo by Christopher Gannon.

Roads in the southwest part of campus dug up since March will be back in service by Aug. 10. Two projects, involving Bissell Road and Welch Road/Union Drive respectively, have a two-summer timeline due to their size. Facilities planning and management leaders seized the opportunity to marry several necessary upgrades on one timeline: underground utilities and road replacement. The impact of the former will be a storm sewer system that can keep up with higher water runoff volumes from developing that part of campus and more reliable air conditioning in west-side buildings. The street-level impact will be wider sidewalks and narrower roads that help keep pedestrians safer.

Work will resume in March 2019.

Bissell Road

The contractor (Carter and Associates, Coralville) paved most of Bissell Road July 20 following four months and three phases of work that managed to stay on or ahead of schedule. Crews installed storm sewer lines and new chilled water pipes beneath Bissell between the Osborn Drive intersection and the south end of the under-construction Student Innovation Center. The two replace systems that were 78 years and 50 years old, respectively.

Senior construction manager Leroy Brown, facilities planning and management, said when it's completed, Bissell will remain closed to vehicle traffic for about a week to serve temporarily as a sidewalk. Crews will install 10-foot-wide sidewalks on either side of Bissell, except in the Student Innovation Center construction site.

Weather permitting, the contractor should finish and vacate the area by Aug. 10.

Welch Road/Union Drive

Two of three scheduled phases, encompassing Welch Road from Lincoln Way to Union Drive, and Union Drive west to just east of the Enrollment Services Center parking entrance, will be completed at the south end of the project zone this summer. The storm sewers beneath them also are being replaced. Brown said a scheduled third phase will be completed as part of the 2019 work.

Phase 1 hit a snag in April when ConStruct crews unearthed a box culvert beneath Welch Road that helps divert College Creek around the south bank of Lake LaVerne. (College Creek reemerges on the east side of the Memorial Union ramp.) A thick slab of concrete covering the culvert had to be removed because it sat too high for the height of the new road, revealing the culvert, supported by a decades-old set of weight-bearing wood tiers. Brown said engineers from the university's project consultant evaluated the culvert, determined it couldn't bear any weight and took several weeks to evaluate solutions.

The decision? With the wood tiers removed, 12 eight-inch steel pilings were driven 40 feet into the ground adjacent to the culvert and filled with concrete earlier this week. They'll support a reinforced concrete grade beam across the top of the culvert, over which the road can be poured.

Weather permitting, Brown said crews will pour the Welch Road and Union Drive road sections the week of Aug. 6. They'll complete the culvert project and new sidewalks on both sides of the roads the following week.

"The work of these contractors is really appreciated," Brown said. "No one can predict the weather in peak construction season. They understand our university priorities and work hard to meet those."

Looking ahead

When all the work wraps up in August 2019, the road corridor from the Bissell/Osborn intersection south to the Lincoln Way/Welch intersection will look and function consistently. Road widths will narrow to a uniform 27 feet, and sidewalks will widen to 10 feet. Vehicles, buses and bicycles will share a single traffic lane (13.5 feet wide) in each direction.


Previous stories

Big west-side road projects will span two summers, Feb. 22, 2018