GOSHEN — Independence Day is known for its fireworks displays, but this July 4 some people hope to see another interesting event in Goshen.
That’s the day a major part of the construction of the pedestrian underpass on the Goshen College campus will happen.
Starting late July 3, after the last train clears the tracks that cross the college, Norfolk Southern will have an-hour-and-a-half to lift the railroad tracks and haul them away, allowing for construction workers to dig and lower in precast structures to form the tunnel underpass, according to Glenn Gilbert, the college’s utilities manager and sustainability coordinator. Trains will not travel the track July 4, but, late in the day, Norfolk Southern will return and install the tracks in time for train traffic to return July 5.
“I’ve never seen a project put together that fast, but it’s doable,” Mary Cripe, Goshen city engineer said. Gilbert agreed.
It’s a larger construction project, but it’s the speed of the project that has caught people’s attention.
“I‘ve heard people tell me they’re coming, that they’re coming at midnight,” Gilbert said. Whether that means people will actually turn out, though, Gilbert isn’t sure.
The underpass is going in west of the college’s dorms and east of the college’s library and Umble Center. Stairs and a wheelchair lift on either side of the train tracks will be connected by a level corridor under the tracks.
Along with actual engineering and construction decisions, those involved in constructing the tunnel now need to discuss how to handle those people who want to watch the July 4 activity.
Officials from all groups involved with the tunnel construction will be meeting Thursday to discuss exactly how the day will go.
“There is a realization that there is some community interest,” Goshen College Public Relations Director Richard Aguirre said. But people stopping by to watch the construction could create safety issues, he said.
Aguirre said that Thursday’s meeting will determine the public’s involvement with the July 4 project. They’ll figure out if and how facilities will be open then, what parking will be available and if the fence surrounding the current construction area will stay the same or be widened to provide a larger off-limits area, for example, Aguirre said.
There’s been discussion about setting up some bleachers for the day, but Aguirre said that, depending on where the fence surrounding the construction zone is, there may not be much people will be able to see anyway.
The college is also working out details for live camera footage of the construction of the tunnel.
Gilbert said the college doesn’t want to completely exclude people from the project, but, at the same time, “we don’t want to go out of our way to make it an event,” Gilbert said.
A YouTube video of what the tunnel will look like in general is available by searching “Goshen College underpass” on YouTube.com